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As Jared Kushner ascends White House ladder, Senate Russia inquiry adds scrutiny

Trumps son-in-law will lead Office of American Innovation to privatize certain government functions, as he agrees to testify in Russia election investigation

Jared Kushner, Donald Trumps son-in-law and senior adviser, found himself back in the spotlight for better and for worse on Monday.

As the US president appointed him to a new White House role, it was revealed that Kushner would testify before a Senate committee investigating Russian interference in last years election.

With Kushner at its helm, Trumps White House Office of American Innovation is designed to overhaul the federal government with input from the private sector, it was announced on Monday. The venture, which will bring together a team of former executives to privatize certain government functions, will follow through on the presidents business-minded approach to running the country.

Read more: https://www.theguardian.com/us-news/2017/mar/27/jared-kushner-white-house-office-trump-russia


I was sent Donald Trump’s 2005 tax return. We need the rest right now | David Cay Johnston

Only the full release of his tax records can help shed light on whether Trump is a crook or compromised

Why do we need to see Donald Trumps tax returns? Thats the number one question asked by critics of the story I broke last week on DCReport.org, after the presidents 2005 tax return summary pages showed up on 13 March in the mail at my home in Rochester, New York. Its a question Im happy to answer as a longtime tax reporter, a Trump biographer and a citizen who has known Trump for almost 30 years.

We need to see years of tax returns from every major-party candidate for president and vice-president because, as Richard Nixon said during Watergate, people have got to know whether or not their president is a crook. Nixon, it turned out, was a crook. While he was not indicted, his tax lawyer went to prison.

Among major-party candidates and presidents since then, only Trump has refused to release any tax information. The obvious question is: what is he hiding?

Plenty.

Without his complete tax returns since the 1970s, we have no way of knowing whether he is a crook or compromised by his extensive dealings with Russian oligarchs; with authoritarian regimes in Azerbaijan, the Philippines and Turkey; or by massive loans from a bank owned by the Chinese government and the Trump Tower space rented by its largest tenant, Industrial & Commercial Bank of China.

We do know from court records that Trump was embroiled in a sales tax scandal. He was named as one of the celebrities who bought items at the Bulgari jewellery store in Manhattan without the necessary taxes being paid. Ed Koch, when he was mayor of New York, suggested those involved should have served 15 days behind bars for this. Yet then, as now, Trump was bullish in his own defence. His spokesman said Trump was never part of the scam and only made bona fide purchases.

The Form 1040 I received tells us how much Trump made and how much tax he paid but not his sources of income, the interest he has paid, the depreciated values of his real-estate assets and many other details. But from his complete returns I and others could determine his sources of income and payments to banks and consultants, and calculate the value of his real estate.

Imagine if, as president, Trump gets financially squeezed as he was in 1990, when he had a negative net worth, and in 2008, when he claimed he could not repay a $40m debt. What leverage could Bank of China, to which Trump owes many millions of dollars, bring to bear?

It is owned by a communist government in Beijing. On the other hand, what if they forgave Trump debts to seek favourable foreign policy and military objectives?

During the campaign, Trump repeatedly said he would release his returns once the audits were complete. After assuming office he said he had no intention of ever making them public, despite mounting questions about his relationships with Russian oligarchs, involving at least one wildly lucrative deal at a time when he said the entire US real estate market was in collapse.

That same year, Trump sold a Florida estate he bought for less than $41m four years earlier to an oligarch for $95m (plus commission). Today the land sits vacant, the mansion bulldozed. According to Reuters, Russians have invested more than $100m in other Trump buildings. These are matters of public record, cited in my book The Making of Donald Trump. By his own account, Trump has had extensive dealings with Russian oligarchs over 30 years, so we should know more about their relationship.

A 2007 document Trump authorized what an active lawsuit says was a quarter-billion-dollar tax fraud that involved one of the oligarchs. The deal allowed a refinancing in which the profits vanished, for tax purposes. Trump and the defendants say it was a routine recapitalisation, and are trying to get the case dismissed in state court. How much did Trump get from it? His tax returns will tell.

These facts are more than enough to show why we need to know Trumps sources of income, who he is indebted to, who his business partners and associates are and who was paid supposed consulting fees. His tax returns would put a spotlight on this and much more.

Trump spent years in court fighting to not pay undocumented immigrants their $4 an hour pay. He refused to pay small business vendors over years too, putting many out of business. Lawsuits accuse him of swindling investors from Hawaii to Mexico to Florida. Are these the signs of an honest businessman?

Now Trump is the president, Americans need to know not only if their president is a crook but whether he is disloyal, can be leveraged by foreign interests or be bribed by them. Thats why we need to see his full tax returns.

David Cay Johnston, a Pulitzer prize-winning investigative reporter, is the author of The Making of Donald Trump. He is founder and editor of DCReport.org

Read more: https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2017/mar/22/donald-trumps-2005-tax-return-we-need-the-rest-right-now


Rod Rosenstein: ‘honorable’ US attorney poised to be next Russia investigator

With Jeff Sessions recusal, the widely admired nominee for deputy attorney general could be dropped into the thick of the Trump administration controversy

As a young justice department lawyer, Rod Rosenstein was tapped to join Kenneth Starrs Whitewater investigation into Bill and Hillary Clintons real estate dealings. He showed an uncommon skill with public corruption cases, demonstrating a wisdom and sensitivity beyond his years, his supervisors said.

Now Rosenstein, who made his reputation as a competent, apolitical US attorney who served both Bush and Obama, may investigate another presidents ties to an even more high-profile scandal.

The attorney general, Jeff Sessions, pledged on Thursday he would recuse himself from overseeing any investigations of Russias role in the 2016 election. I should not be involved in investigating a campaign I had a role in, he said, a decision that came after bipartisan pressure from Congress over his failure to disclose two meetings with Russias ambassador during the election year.

Sessions recusal could immediately put Rosenstein into a much higher-profile position than he might have imagined when he was nominated to serve as deputy attorney general. If confirmed, he would oversee any justice department investigation into Russian interference in the election including any contacts between Russia and members of the Trump campaign.

Rosenstein, who is currently the US attorney in Maryland, was a surprising choice to serve as the No 2 official in Trumps justice department, said Philip Heymann, who was Rosensteins law professor at Harvard, and later his boss in the Clinton justice department. Rosenstein has served in the Department of Justice for 26 years, including in the tax division, the public integrity section, and as an assistant US attorney in Maryland.

Rosenstein is a skilled prosecutor and a straight shooter, with a deep knowledge of the day-to-day workings of the department, but he did not seem particularly close to either Sessions or Trump, Heymann said.

It surprises me that they didnt pick somebody who was more partisan, he said.

James Cole, who served for four years as Eric Holders deputy attorney general, also offered unqualified praise for Rosensteins skill and credibility.

He doesnt make any decisions that either are or appear to be political, he said.

Questions on the Russia investigation are likely to be at the center of Rosensteins confirmation hearing on Tuesday. He declined to comment.

Some observers have noted that during the Nixon administration, Senate Democrats used the confirmation process of Nixons attorney general pick, Elliot Richardson, as leverage and refused to confirm him for the job until he named a special prosecutor to oversee the Watergate investigation. Senate Democrats could take a similar approach to Rosensteins confirmation and demand a special prosecutor on Russias interference in the 2016 election, the Intercept suggested on Thursday.

On Sunday night, Richard Blumenthal, one of the Democrats on the Senate judiciary committee, vowed on Twitter that he would use every possible tool to block DOJ Deputy AG nominee unless he commits to appoint [an] independent special prosecutor.

Heymann said both Democrats and Republicans would trust Rosenstein and that he was the perfect person to oversee an investigation into Russias interference in the US election an issue both Democrats and Trump have framed, in different ways, as an inquiry that strikes at the heart of Trumps legitimacy as president.

I think were very lucky to have him in that position, he said.

In February, the Baltimore Sun, Rosensteins hometown paper, called him an honorable public servant with wide bipartisan support who was too good to sell his soul by taking a job in the Trump administration.

Just dont go there. Say no to President Trump, a member of the Suns editorial board advised Rosenstein in an open letter.

Former colleagues praised Rosensteins restraint. He understands that the justice departments role is to do justice rather than bring cases, said Steve Levin, a former federal prosecutor who worked for Rosenstein in Baltimore. Even as he rose into a politically appointed position, he kept the approach and the attitude of a career prosecutor, Levin said.

He is very professional and very determined to be the best prosecutor that he can be and he doesnt take that to mean the most aggressive prosecutor, Heymann said.

Heymann, a longtime justice department official, worked with the Watergate prosecutor, Archibald, Cox on the investigation that led to Nixons resignation, and was also part of investigations into Jimmy Carter and Bill Clinton. He said Rosensteins lack of a close relationship with Trump or Sessions could, paradoxically, make his job overseeing any investigation of Russian interference harder.

I think hes in an incredibly difficult position. Ive learned over many, many years its easier to be independent if youre a close friend of the president than if youre not, he said, explaining the importance of having a presidents trust. I would anticipate that the White House would be very worried about anybody that they didnt know well.

As Marylands US attorney, Levin said, Rosenstein has gone after corrupt police officers and prison guards as well as violent gang members. This week, his office announced the arrest of seven Baltimore police officers for racketeering.

Rosenstein has also worked to crack down on national security leaks, announcing charges last fall in a high-profile case against a National Security Agency contractor for stealing classified information.

In response to questions about Russias interference in the election he won, Trump has repeatedly argued that the real scandal is not the attempt of a foreign power to sway an American election, but the national security leaks that have made new angles of the issue public.

Rosensteins predecessor as US attorney in Maryland sparked complaints that he was unfairly targeting Democrats in public corruption cases using his office as a political weapon. Rosenstein brought more stability to the office. When he has gone after public officials as US attorney, he did it an even-handed and a fair way, said Cole, the Obama justice official.

The deputy attorney general is the justice departments chief operation officer, with wide responsibilities for overseeing litigation, crime-fighting strategy, and the federal governments national security policy. If confirmed, he will end up in the situation room a lot, Cole said.

During his confirmation hearing, Sessions made no mention of the two meetings he had with Russias ambassador during the election year, even when asked directly if he had been in contact with anyone connected to any part of the Russian government about the 2016 election. Saying the attorney general appeared to have lied under oath, some Democrats are continuing to demand that he resign. Sessions said that he should have mentioned the meetings with ambassador Sergey Kislyak, but that he did not recall any specific political discussions.

Read more: https://www.theguardian.com/us-news/2017/mar/06/rod-rosenstein-deputy-attorney-general-russia-jeff-sessions


Deutsche Bank fined $630m over Russia money laundering claims

Authorities in US and UK issue fine after saying bank used offices in Moscow and London to move $10bn out of country

Deutsche Bank has been fined more than $630m (506m) for failing to prevent $10bn of Russian money laundering and exposing the UK financial system to the risk of financial crime.

The UKs Financial Conduct Authority imposed its largest ever fine 163m for potential money laundering offences on Germanys biggest bank, which it said had missed several opportunities to clamp down on the activities of its Russian operations as a result of weak systems to detect financial crime between 2012 and 2015.

A US regulator, the New York Department of Financial Services (DFS), also fined the bank $425m as it listed problems at Deutsche including one senior compliance officer stating he had to beg, borrow, and steal to get the resources to combat money laundering. As part of the settlement, the DFS has imposed a monitor, who will police the behaviour inside the bank for two years.

The latest run-in with regulators comes as Deutsches chief executive, John Cryan, tries to clean up the bank. Last month it paid $7.2bn to settle a decade-old toxic bond mis-selling scandal with the US Department of Justice .

The German bank admitted that the investigations into its Russian operations over so-called mirror trades had not yet finished. It said it was cooperating with other regulators and law enforcement authorities. The DoJ is reported to be among them.

Deutsches share price has been extremely volatile in recent months over concerns about the banks ability to pay fines, at one point dipping to less than 11 last autumn . Its share price before the financial crash was 117.

As the latest penalties were announced, the shares fell by 0.5% to 18.52 valuing the bank at 25bn, which is less than half that of the UKs Lloyds Banking Group, for example.

In a memo to staff Karl von Rohr, chief administrative officer of Deutsche,said: We deeply regret the banks role in the issues cited. He added that the number of staff employed to fight crime had risen 30% in 2016 and now stood at 700. Another 450 will be hired this year.

The FCA said Deutsches anti-money laundering (AML) controls were not tough enough to stop the bank being used by unidentified customers to transfer approximately $10bn from Russia to offshore bank accounts in a manner that is highly suggestive of financial crime. Money was moved via Deutsche Bank in the UK, to obank accounts overseas, including onesin Cyprus, Estonia, and Latvia, the FCA said.

Mark Steward, director of enforcement and market oversight at the regulator, said: Financial crime is a risk to the UK financial system. Deutsche Bank was obliged to establish and maintain an effective AML control framework. By failing to do so, Deutsche Bank put itself at risk of being used to facilitate financial crime and exposed the UK to the risk of financial crime.

The size of the fine reflects the seriousness of Deutsche Banks failings. We have repeatedly told firms how to comply with our AML requirements and the failings of Deutsche Bank are simply unacceptable. Other firms should take notice of todays fine and look again at their own AML procedures to ensure they do not face similar action.

The penalties relate to the bank failing to obtain information about its customers involved in mirror trades ones which mirror each other and have no economic purpose which allowed Deutsche Banks Russia-based subsidiary (DB Moscow) to execute more than 2,400 pairs of trades between April 2012 and October 2014.

Shares in major Russian companies were paid for in roubles through the Moscow office and then the same stock would be sold through London, sometimes on the same day, for a related customer, the New York regulator said. The sellers were registered in offshore locations and received payment for the shares in dollars. A dozen entities were identified.

The FCA said the purpose of $6bn mirror trades was the conversion of roubles into US dollars and the covert transfer of those funds out of Russia, which is highly suggestive of financial crime.

The regulators found almost $3bn in 3,400 suspiciousone-sided trades also occurred. The FCA believes that some, if not all, of these formed one side of mirror trades. They were often conducted by the same customers involved in the mirror trading.

This Russian mirror-trading scheme occurred while the bank was on clear notice of serious and widespread compliance issues dating back a decade. The offsetting trades here lacked economic purpose and could have been used to facilitate money laundering or enable other illicit conduct, and todays action sends a clear message that DFS will not tolerate such conduct, said New Yorks financial services superintendent, Maria Vullo.

The FCA described Deutsche Bank as being exceptionally cooperative and having committed to solve the problems in its AML systems. The bank received a 30% discount for its cooperation. This is a contrast to 2015 when the bank was fined for rigging Libor and accused of being obstructive towards regulators in their investigations into the global manipulation of the benchmark rate.

Last year, Deutsche said, it had taken disciplinary measures with regards to certain individuals in this matter and will continue to do so with respect to others as warranted.

Five previous Deutsche fines

January 2017 500m for Russian money-laundering offences.

January 2017 75m to resolve a US government lawsuit over hiding tax liabilities to the Internal Revenue Service in 2000.

December 2016 5.9bn for toxic bond mis-selling scandal.

November 2015 200m for breaching US sanctions with Iran and Syria.

April 2015 1.7bn for rigging Libor.

Read more: https://www.theguardian.com/business/2017/jan/31/deutsche-bank-fined-630m-over-russia-money-laundering-claims


John McCain says US has no strategy to deal with Russian cyber warfare

In audio obtained by the Guardian, McCain says it is the one aspect of our confrontation where adversaries are ahead

John McCain warned that the Trump administration is unprepared to deal with Russian attempts to influence elections in France and European countries in the coming months.

In audio obtained by the Guardian of the 2008 presidential nominee speaking at the congressional retreat in Philadelphia, the Arizona senator said we dont have a policy and we dont have a strategy for Russian cyber warfare. He said it is the one aspect of our confrontation where I believe our adversaries are ahead of us, adding it is a hell of a lot of easier to offense in cyber than defense.

France is holding its first round of presidential elections in April and far right nationalist Marine Le Pen is leading in opinion polls. Le Pens party, the National Front, is currently facing scrutiny over its ties to Russian banks and she has insisted that Russias occupation of Crimea was legitimate. The 2014 invasion of Crimea drew international condemnation and led to international sanctions against Russia.

McCain, who stated matter of factly that we do know the Russians were trying to influence the outcome of our election, also warned that he didnt know what Trumps policy was towards Russia. The hawkish McCain described Putin as a KGB criminal and suggested Ronald Reagans approach to Russia of peace through strength was the appropriate template today.

McCain broadly took a pessimistic view of foreign affairs in 2017. I could make a coherent, cogent argument that the world is more dangerous than any time in the last 70 years, said MCain, who chairs the Senate armed services committee. There are pressures on the new world order that was established in 1947 and 1948, the likes of which we have never seen.

He told attendees he believed President Trump will probably be tested by one or more of these forces around the world, whether it be North Koreans, Iranians, the Chinese or the Russians and expressed his hope that all of his colleagues will support a response which is proportionate and will also tell Vladimir Putin, the ayatollahs and the Chinese that there is a new team in town.

McCain though was full of praise for many of Trumps cabinet picks. He told colleagues the national security team that president Trump has assembled is as strong or better than any Ive ever seen. He had particular praise for newly confirmed secretary of defense James Mattis. Im not sure if one person can have a profound effect but if anyone can have a profound effect it is General Mattis, said McCain.

He also seemed to welcome Mike Flynn, Trumps controversial selection for national security adviser. What a nice change from Susan Rice to General Flynn, McCain said of the transition from Obamas adviser to Trumps selection.

McCain is notably not close to Trump. The president mocked the Arizona senator in 2015 for being a prisoner of war, saying hes a war hero because he was captured? I like people who werent captured, and McCain only backed Trump after the real estate developer became the GOP nominee.

However, he has been enthusiastic about many of Trumps cabinet choices in foreign policy and offered the White House crucial support in advancing the nomination of state department nominee Rex Tillerson.

Read more: https://www.theguardian.com/us-news/2017/jan/27/john-mccain-says-us-has-no-strategy-to-deal-with-russian-cyber-warfare


FBI chief given dossier by John McCain alleging secret Trump-Russia contacts

Russian intelligence alleged to have compromising material on Trump, say unverified reports drawn up by western ex-counter-intelligence official

Senator John McCain passed documents to the FBI director, James Comey, last month alleging secret contacts between the Trump campaign and Moscow and that Russian intelligence had personally compromising material on the president-elect himself.

The material, which has been seen by the Guardian, is a series of reports on Trumps relationship with Moscow. They were drawn up by a former western counter-intelligence official, now working as a private consultant.

The Guardian has not been able to confirm the veracity of the documents contents, and the Trump team has consistently denied any hidden contacts with the Russian government.

Trumps transition team did not immediately respond to a request for comment, but late on Tuesday, Trump tweeted: FAKE NEWS A TOTAL POLITICAL WITCH HUNT! He made no direct reference to the allegations.

An official in the US administration who spoke to the Guardian described the source who wrote the intelligence report as consistently reliable, meticulous and well-informed, with a reputation for having extensive Russian contacts.

Some of the reports which are dated from 20 June to 20 October last year also proved to be prescient, predicting events that happened after they were sent.

One report, dated June 2016, claims that the Kremlin has been cultivating, supporting and assisting Trump for at least five years, with the aim of encouraging splits and divisions in western alliance.

It claims that Trump had declined various sweetener real estate deals offered him in Russia especially in developments linked to the 2018 World Cup finals but that he and his inner circle have accepted a regular flow of intelligence from the Kremlin, including on his Democratic and other political rivals.

Most explosively, the report alleges: FSB has compromised Trump through his activities in Moscow sufficiently to be able to blackmail him. The president-elect has not responded to the allegations.

CNN reported on Tuesday that the FBI was still investigating the credibility of the documents but added that the intelligence chiefs had included a summary of the material in a secret briefing on Russian interference in the election delivered last week to Barack Obama and Donald Trump.

The emergence of the documents is potentially explosive, 10 days before Trumps inauguration and on the eve of his first planned press conference since July last year.

Despite glowing references from US and foreign officials who have worked with the source, there are some errors in the reports. One describes the Moscow suburb of Barvikha as reserved for the residences of the top leadership and their close associates, but although it is a very expensive neighbourhood, there are no restrictions on who can own property there. The document also misspells the name of a Russian banking corporation.

The FBI does not normally make any comment on ongoing counter-intelligence investigations but was under increasing pressure from Democrats and some Republicans to act before the inauguration, particularly because of Comeys announcement of a continuing investigation into Hillary Clintons email server 11 days before the election, which many of her supporters believe cost her the presidency.

The reports were initially commissioned as opposition research during the presidential campaign, but its author was sufficiently alarmed by what he discovered to send a copy to the FBI. It is unclear who within the organisation they reached and what action the bureau took. The former Democratic Senate leader, Harry Reid, has lambasted Comey for publicising investigations into Hillary Clintons private server, while allegedly sitting on explosive material on Trumps ties to Russia.

Another Democratic senator, Ron Wyden, questioned Comey insistently at a Senate intelligence committee hearing on Tuesday on whether the FBI was pursuing leads on Trump campaign contacts with Russia.

Has the FBI investigated these reported relationships? Wyden asked.

Comey replied: I would never comment on investigations in a public forum.

The Guardian can confirm that the documents reached the top of the FBI by December. Senator John McCain, who was informed about the existence of the documents separately by an intermediary from a western allied state, dispatched an emissary overseas to meet the source and then decided to present the material to Comey in a one-on-one meeting on 9 December, according to a source aware of the meeting. The documents, which were first reported on last year by Mother Jones, are also in the hands of officials in the White House.

McCain is not thought to have made a judgment on the reliability of the documents but was sufficiently impressed by the sources credentials to feel obliged to pass them to the FBI.

The Senate armed services committee, which Senator McCain chairs, launched an inquiry last week into Russian cyber-attacks during the election.

McCain was reluctant to get involved, according to a colleague, for fear the issue would be dismissed as a personal grudge against Trump. He pushed instead for the creation of a special Senate committee to look into connections between campaign staff and Moscow, but the proposal was blocked by the Republican leadership.

McCain told the NBC programme Meet the Press on Sunday: I would like to see a select committee. Apparently that is not in agreement by our leadership. So we will move forward with the armed services committee and Im sure foreign relations and intelligence committee will as well.

But the senator added: It is possible if enough information comes out, that that decision could be reversed. I still think its the best way to attack the issue.

Asked on the same programme on whether an investigation was ongoing into campaign links to Moscow, Senator Lyndsey Graham, another conservative Republican said: I believe that its happening.

According to the report passed to Comey, Russian intelligence allegedly gathered compromising material during Trumps stay in Moscow in November 2013, when he was in the city to host the Miss Universe pageant.

Another report, dated 19 July last year said that Carter Page, a businessman named by Trump as one of his foreign policy advisers, had held a secret meeting that month with Igor Sechin, head of the Rosneft state-owned oil company and a long-serving lieutenant of Vladimir Putin. Page also allegedly met Igor Divyekin, an internal affairs official with a background in intelligence, who is said to have warned Page that Moscow had kompromat (compromising material) on Trump.

Two months later, allegations of Pages meetings surfaced in the US media, attributed to intelligence sources, along with reports that he had been under FBI scrutiny.

Page, a vociferous supporter of the Kremlin line, was in Moscow in July to make a speech decrying western policy towards Russia. At the time he declined to say whether he had been in contact with Russian officials, but in September he rejected the reports as garbage.

The Guardian has learned that the FBI applied for a warrant from the foreign intelligence surveillance (Fisa) court over the summer in order to monitor four members of the Trump team suspected of irregular contacts with Russian officials. The Fisa court turned down the application asking FBI counter-intelligence investigators to narrow its focus. According to one report, the FBI was finally granted a warrant in October, but that has not been confirmed, and it is not clear whether any warrant led to a full investigation.

A month after Trumps surprise election victory, Page was back in Moscow saying he was meeting with business leaders and thought leaders, dismissing the FBI investigation as a witch-hunt and suggesting the Russian hacking of the Democratic Party alleged by US intelligence agencies, could be a false flag operation to incriminate Moscow.

Another of the reports compiled by the former western counter-intelligence official in July said that members of Trumps team, which was led by campaign manager Paul Manafort (a former consultant for pro-Russian politicians in Ukraine), had knowledge of the DNC hacking operation, and in return had agreed to sideline Russian intervention in Ukraine as a campaign issue and to raise US/Nato defence commitments in the Baltics and Eastern Europe to deflect attention away from Ukraine.

A few days later, Trump raised the possibility that his administration might recognise Russias annexation of Crimea and openly called on Moscow to hack Hillary Clintons emails.

In August, officials from the Trump campaign intervened in the drafting of the Republican party platform, specifically to remove a call for lethal assistance to Ukraine for its battle against Moscow-backed eastern rebels.

Manafort stepped down in August as campaign manager and the campaign steadily distanced itself from Page. However, Trumps praise of Putin and defence of Moscows actions in Ukraine and Syria remained one of the few constants in his campaign talking points.

Manafort has denied secret links with Moscow calling the allegation an outrageous smear being driven by Harry Reid and the Clinton campaign.

Since then, Trump has consistently cast doubt on Russian culpability for hacking the Democratic National Committee, defying a consensus of 17 national intelligence agencies. After Obama deported 35 Russian diplomats in retaliation for Moscows intervention, Trump praised Putin for not carrying out tit-for-tat deportations of US diplomats. I always knew he was very smart, he tweeted.

An FBI spokesman declined to comment after the CNN report.

Read more: https://www.theguardian.com/us-news/2017/jan/10/fbi-chief-given-dossier-by-john-mccain-alleging-secret-trump-russia-contacts


Clinton blames Russia for DNC hack as Trump seems to back annex of Crimea

Democratic nominee accuses Trump of troubling willingness to support Putin while Republican rejects claims of link and people of Crimea would rather be with Russia

Hillary Clinton has once again blamed Russian intelligence services for hacking the Democratic National Committee (DNC) computer system and accused Donald Trump of supporting the Russian president, Vladimir Putin.

As she did so, Trump denied having ties to Putin and Russia and appeared to voice his approval of Russias annexation of Crimea from Ukraine.

In her first national interview since clinching the Democratic nomination, Clinton spoke to Fox News Sunday. The interview was taped in Pennsylvania on Saturday morning, before Trump criticized Khizr Khan, the father of a dead soldier, who spoke at the Democratic national convention.

Clinton answered tough questions on Benghazi, her emails and her campaign and policies, and focused her own attack on her opponents alleged links to Russia and Putin.

We know that Russian intelligence services hacked into the DNC, Clinton said, in her first interview with Fox in more than five years. And we know that they arranged for a lot of those emails to be released and we know that Donald Trump has shown a very troubling willingness to back up Putin, to support Putin.

Asked if she believed Putin wanted Trump to win the presidency, Clinton said she would not make that conclusion. But I think laying out the facts raises serious issues about Russian interference in our elections, in our democracy, she said.

The US would not tolerate that from any other country, Clinton said, adding: For Trump to both encourage that and to praise Putin despite what appears to be a deliberate effort to try to affect the election, I think, raises national security issues.

The hack of the DNC computers has also affected the Clinton campaign and the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee. For about five days, a hacker accessed an analytics data program maintained by the DNC that was used by the Clinton campaign to conduct voter analysis, said an aide familiar with the matter.

According to an outside cybersecurity expert for the Clinton campaign, the campaign is confident the hack could not result in access to internal emails, voicemails or other internal communications and documents.

The hack led to the resignation of the DNC chair, Debbie Wasserman Schultz, on the eve of the partys convention, inspiring protests over leaked emails that showed top DNC staffers had discussed ways to undermine Clintons primary opponent, Bernie Sanders.

The FBI is investigating and federal sources have indicated that Russian intelligence sources may be to blame. On Wednesday, Trump appealed to Russia to find 30,000 missing emails from the private server used by Clinton when she was secretary of state. He later said he had been being sarcastic.

The billionaires campaign has rejected all claims of links to Russia and Putin. On Sunday an interview with Trump, also recorded on Saturday, was broadcast on ABCs This Week. He repeated: I have no relationship with Putin. I have no relationship with Putin.

Asked about a comment from 2013 in which he said I do have a relationship with Putin, Trump said: Just so you understand, he said very nice things about me. But I have no relationship with him. He added: I dont think Ive ever met him. I never met him. I dont think Ive ever met him.

Trump was asked about his recent comments disparaging Nato allies, the softening of the Republican platform on Russia and Ukraine and his equivocations on Russias annexation of Crimea, the subject of US sanctions and United Nations disapproval.

Hes [Putins] not going into Ukraine, OK, just so you understand, he said. Hes not going to go into Ukraine, all right?

Reminded that in fact Russia annexed Crimea from Ukraine in 2014, Trump said: But you know, the people of Crimea, from what Ive heard, would rather be with Russia than where they were. And you have to look at that, also just so you understand, that was done under Obamas administration.

And as far as the Ukraine is concerned, its a mess. And thats under Obamas administration with his strong ties to Nato. So with all of these strong ties to Nato, Ukraine is a mess. Crimea has been taken. Dont blame Donald Trump for that.

In a statement issued later on Sunday, the Clinton policy adviser Jake Sullivan said: What is he talking about? Russia is already in Ukraine. Does he not know that? What else doesnt he know? While Trump hasnt mastered basic facts about the world, he has mastered Putins talking points on Crimea.

Asked about the removal from the GOP platform a call for supply of lethal weapons to Ukraine for defense purposes, Trump said: I wasnt involved in that. Honestly, I was not involved.

Host George Stephanopoulos said: Your people were.

Trump said: Yeah. I was not involved in that. Id like to Id have to take a look at it. But I was not involved in it They softened it, I heard. But I was not involved.

One of Trumps people, campaign chair Paul Manafort, previously worked for Viktor Yanukovych, the former president of Ukraine and a Putin ally who now lives in exile in Russia. Appearing on NBCs Meet the Press, he said he had no influence on the platform committee and the change absolutely did not come from the Trump campaign.

On ABC, Trump also said: If our country got along with Russia, that would be a great thing. When Putin goes out and tells everybody, and you talk about relationship, but he says, Donald Trump is gonna win. And Donald Trump is a genius. And then I have people saying, You should disavow. I said, Im gonna disavow that?

But when Putin says good things, and when we have a possibility of having a good relationship with Russia I think thats good.

Read more: https://www.theguardian.com/us-news/2016/jul/31/clinton-blaming-russia-emails-dnc-hack


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