Sergei Millian and the Simpson Testimony

Glenn Simpson’s testimony to the House Intelligence Committee was actually far more informative than that he gave to the Senate Judiciary Committee. I get the feeling we all might have been better served had Simpson released Fusion’s own research on Trump rather than the Steele dossier (and it might have avoided all the drama over the dossier).

I was particularly interested in Simpson’s extended comments about Sergei Millian, who ran a sketchy Russian-American chamber of commerce organization (here’s a David Corn profile that surely is influenced by Fusion), who has been alleged by many outlets (WSJ, ABC, WaPo) to be one (D) or another (E) source for the Steele dossier (note, Steele’s labels for sources in the dossier were not consistent, and other figures must be one or another of those letters in some reports).

Simpson described that his own, unpublished research showed that Millian had ties to the Trump camp going back years, first in conjunction with an effort to help Trump brand vodka under his own name in Russia.

And there was, prior to the 2013 Miss Universe fair, there.was an earlier Trump vodka marketing project in Russia that later became something that we were very interested in.

[snip]

MR. SIMPSON: Well, one of the guys who organized this trip was a guy who’s currently known as Sergi Millian. And he’s been in the press a good bit, I think, although not recently. And, you know, he came up in connection with that, and then he came up in connection with Chris’ work as one of the people around Trump who had a Russian background, and unexplained, you know, a lot of unexplained things. So when we looked at him, we found that he ran a sort of shadowy kind of trade group called the Russian-American Chamber of Commerce, which is — Russians are known to use chambers of commerce and trade groups as fronts for intelligence operations.

And this guy, his name – his real name or his original n_ame that he came to the United States wasn’t Sergi Millian. It was Siarhei Kukuts, and that’s a pretty different name.

And he changed his name when he got to Atlanta. And when we looked at him some more, we found two different resumes for him. In one resume he said he was from Belarus and he went to Minsk State; and then in another he was from Moscow and went to Moscow State. In one he said he worked for the Belarussian Foreign Ministry; in the other, he said he worked for the Russian Foreign Ministry.

He was a linguist, also an interesting thing about his background. And as time went on, yeah, we found other things about him.

Simpson also described Millian dealing Trump condos to Russians.

We found a picture of him with Donald Trump. He boasted to people that he had sold hundreds of millions of dollars in Trump condos, Trump real estate to Russians, that he was some kind of exclusive agent for Trump in Russia and that he organized this trade fair.

That may refer to Millian’s involvement in the Trump Hollywood project. Simpson describes him playing a role that has been alleged of others in Trump’s Soho project — falsely claiming there were more buyers for the project than there really were.

MR. SCHIFF: And tell me about the Trump Hollywood project. That was an example of the latter or the former? Did they get the financing from what you could tell because they got a bunch of Russians to pre-sale, or did they go to a bank and say these are our investors, or how did they go about that?

MR. SIMPSON: Well, eventually, I mean, they lost the project. It went under. I, can’t – I’m not – I’m sure we did look at who the creditors were, who the lenders were. This is the project that Sergi Millian appears to have been involved in, and there’s a picture of Jorge Perez, Donald Trump, and Sergi Millian.

And he tells a story about meeting Donald Trump at the golf — at a racetrack, drinking a bottle of Crystal with him, seems — he gave him some Crystal. And that was in the early phases of the project. So it was clear that Donald Trump — so the equity partner was the related group. It was clear that this Russian had been brought into this with Trump, and what you can surmise from that is that he’s there to say there are buyers. We can bring you buyers for this property. And that’s what a developer needs to know is that he’s got buyer interest.

MR. SCHIFF: And how does it work? Let’s say Sergi Millian or someone else lines up the Russian buyers. The Russian buyers sign pre-sale agreements. Trump can then get financing for the res! of the project. Do the buyers go through and buy the properties, or is that no longer necessary, once you’ve obtained the bank financing you can actually sell them to real people?

Simpson describes Millian’s role in an NGO that — public reporting had revealed years earlier — had been investigated by the FBI as a recruiting organization.

And then, I guess, last but not least, he, you know – as we became more and more interested in his background and the press started to write stories about him, it came out that he was associated with this Russian friendship entity called Rossotrudnichestvo, and that he was involved in organizing a junket to Moscow for some American businessmen that was the subject of an FBI investigation, because it was a suspected recruiting operation. And the FBI had questioned people who were involved in this trip about whether they were recruited by the Russians when they went to Moscow.

So it was that kind of thing.

Finally, Simpson claims his research established ties between Millian and Trump lawyer Michael Cohen (though it’s not clear whether this involved anything beyond Twitter exchanges) that Cohen subsequently tried to downplay.

And then, you know, as further time went on, we found he was connected to Michael Cohen, the President’s lawyer. And eventually, after boasting about a lot of this stuff on camera, on tape, to the TV network, he backed away from all of it suddenly when the Russia controversy began to get hot.

And Michael Cohen was very adamant that he didn’t actually have a connection to Sergi, even though he was one of only like 100 people who followed Sergi on Twitter. And they — we had Twitter messages back and forth between the two of them just – we just pulled them off of Twitter.

There are two reasons this is interesting.

First, as the NYT noted, in the wake of Trump’s victory, Millian proposed a business deal with George Papadopoulos, with whom he had gotten close in the previous six months.

Mr. Trump’s improbable victory raised Mr. Papadopoulos’s hopes that he might ascend to a top White House job. The election win also prompted a business proposal from Sergei Millian, a naturalized American citizen born in Belarus. After he had contacted Mr. Papadopoulos out of the blue over LinkedIn during the summer of 2016, the two met repeatedly in Manhattan.

[snip]

Mr. Millian proposed that he and Mr. Papadopoulos form an energy-related business that would be financed by Russian billionaires “who are not under sanctions” and would “open all doors for us” at “any level all the way to the top.”

One billionaire, he said, wanted to explore the idea of opening a Trump-branded hotel in Moscow. “I know the president will distance himself from business, but his children might be interested,” he wrote.

I think Millian’s cultivation of Papadopoulos likely explains this reference in the affidavit supporting Papadopoulos’ arrest, showing Papadopoulos asking Ivan Timofeev over Facebook on July 22, 2016 for any information he had on someone he was about to meet for the first time (see my timeline here).

“If you know any background of him that is noteworthy before I see him, kindly send my way.”

That would say that, on the same day WikiLeaks released the DNC emails — which itself took place a day after Papadopoulos signaled something about Trump’s RNC speech to Timofeev — Millian started cultivating Papadopoulos, who apparently had started spending more time in NYC.

And, according to the NYT, that cultivation ended up right where Michael Cohen had started in November 2015, discussing a deal for a Trump Tower in Moscow which inexplicably related to Trump winning election, with oligarchs who could evade US sanctions.

Cohen to Millian to Papadopoulos full circle, in the course of one year.

And if I’m right that that Facebook message that Papadopoulos tried to delete indicates a Timofeev role in Millian’s cultivation of Papadopoulos, it suggests a good deal of  orchestration on that front.

Which brings me to Simpson’s comments about Millian and the dossier.

In the first exchange about Millian, Simpson dodges on whether — as had been publicly reported, perhaps even based on sources close to Simpson — Millian was one of the sources for the dossier.

MR. SCHIFF: To your knowledge, was Mr. Millian one of the sources for Christopher Steele in the dossier?

MR. SIMPSON: I’m not in a position to get into the identity of the sources for the dossier for security reasons, primarily.

But there’s a more interesting exchange later, where, in response to a Mike Quigley question about Simpson’s non-public production, Simpson first offers up the non-sequitur that Fusion didn’t leak the dossier to BuzzFeed, then offers a seemingly different non-sequitur about the import of Sergei Millian.

MR. QUIGLEY: The dossier was published. Other elements were published. What wasn’t published? Are there still documents? Is there still information that was garnered by either Mr. Steele or others that the public isn’t aware of at this point, on this point?

MR. SIMPSON: Well, to just put it on the record, we were not the ones that gave this document to Buzzfeed, and I was not happy when this was published. I was very upset. I thought it was a very dangerous thing and that someone had violated my confidences, in any event. I think the story is largely known and that there’s very little that was left on the cutting room table from that time. I think, you know, there’s a little bit of, you know, color, I would say. You know, this guy that we were talking about earlier, Sergi Millian, isn’t named in the dossier, but is someone who was important.

In this bizarre series of non-sequiturs, Simpson appears to connect Millian with the leak of the dossier, which led to the lawfare that in turn led to the campaign to discredit the entire Mueller investigation by focusing on the dossier.

He almost certainly wasn’t the leaker; John McCain associate David Kramer almost certainly was.

But I wonder if, as part of the plan (in which former McCain campaign manager Paul Manafort may have been involved) to use the dossier to undercut the investigation, someone in Millian’s orbit encouraged its leak?

Marcy Wheeler is an independent journalist writing about national security and civil liberties. She writes as emptywheel at her eponymous blog, publishes at outlets including Vice, Motherboard, the Nation, the Atlantic, Al Jazeera, and appears frequently on television and radio. She is the author of Anatomy of Deceit, a primer on the CIA leak investigation, and liveblogged the Scooter Libby trial.

Marcy has a PhD from the University of Michigan, where she researched the “feuilleton,” a short conversational newspaper form that has proven important in times of heightened censorship. Before and after her time in academics, Marcy provided documentation consulting for corporations in the auto, tech, and energy industries. She lives with her spouse in Grand Rapids, MI.

98 replies
  1. Willis Warren says:

    The dossier always seemed suspect because NO ONE WOULD USE CARTER PAGE to drop off their laundry.  This makes sense.  The Russkies had a mole at Fusion.  Who was it?  find out, Marcy, and you win a Pulitzer

    • Willis Warren says:

      If Simpson, like you had hinted earlier, got drunk at a party and tipped of Vlediskitanyoayoreay or however you spell her name, then that makes Simpson the dumbest fucker on the planet but  he wouldn’t have dropped Chris Steele’s name (well, most people wouldn’t have).

    • Trip says:

      The Carter Page sentence is funny. I think Matthew McConaughey could play him in the film.

      The FBI was supposedly leaking stuff to Giuliani, while at the same time Steele was pressing them for feedback after briefing them on his work. It’s possible that someone inside thought it would be a good discrediting tool, as well?

       

      • Avattoir says:

        How about instead, Tony Hale as Page? I think one should exercise care in employing a spectacular scene-muncher like McConaughey. 

        • Trip says:

          Ha! Yes, Tony Hale looks more like Page. Something about Page in interviews reminded me of McConaughey’s past trippy bro-ness. I’m sorry I couldn’t think of a better way to describe it.

    • earlofhuntingdon says:

      The CIA spent decades infiltrating press, arts and other organizations around the world.  It was attempting to capture the cultural high ground, to give itself advance warning of people, movements and messages outside its influence, and to influence public opinion in favor of whatever interests the CIA was espousing at the time.  Much of this work was unknown to others.  But since news of the Mighty Wurlitzer leaked, knowledge of the existence of such intel-cultural networks has been widespread.

      It would be a short leap – about the distance over a car park puddle – to expect that Russian intel services have attempted similar feats of influence, even if differently focused or of a different scope.  The PRC, too.

      In the limited context of Trump and Russia, Papadopoulos seems to be as much a witting as an unwitting tool for both sides in keeping the Don close to Vlad.  But we keep bumping into the question of why.  The usual suspects are money, sex and power.  I wonder which Mr. Mueller’s team has evidence on.

      • Silence Hand says:

        Where “power” devolves from access to critical resources.   What are those resources?  What entity grants access, and under what condition?

        Volumes here.  The Russian gov’t has clearly chosen specific areas of cultural influence, while letting others wither.  Just looking at the scientific enterprise, it’s fairly staggering how far the Russians have fallen in the life sciences while maintaining investment in mathematics and information sciences.

  2. Trip says:

    Simpson’s testimony is difficult to read through, with all of his stops and starts, and turns in direction. I appreciate your combing through it, and relaying it, all without seemingly having a brain-ache.

    On Millian et al: If there is any truth to the pipeline, the Russian Gov’t seems to favor the bombastic, boasting, self-promotional little guy in ways of penetration. These are the very people who can easily be dismissed and discredited as empty bragger-opportunists. And that, they may be, which makes them prime candidates for turning as operatives, but also perfect objects to distance themselves from in plausible deniability and degrees of separation.

  3. Rapier says:

    I have a problem imagining the release of the dossier being part of a carefully constructed strategy to discredit the entire investigation.  It could happen I suppose but it’s a little too conspiracy theoryish for my taste. The leaker may have had hopes that it would have that effect which would place it as a tactic, among many other possible ones, as part of the strategy to discredit.

    The motives don’t matter. If the dossier has become a beautiful Trojan Horse because of elaborate conspiracy rather than a bit of luck combined with prepared minds, to who luck comes, doesn’t really matter,  Success is arriving, for the time being.

    I think it would behoove Muller to make charges soon that are unrelated to the dossier. He had better be prepared to play the PR/political game.

    • earlofhuntingdon says:

      Mueller will take his time, assemble his facts and prepare his presentation.  Whatever he decides to do will produce a shit storm.  He’s in no hurry except to prepare for it.

  4. Bay State Librul says:

    Is there any truth to the scenario identified by Raw Story that Don the Con will be indicted in NY for laundering within 30 days……….(Felix Sater is spilling his guts)

    • Willis Warren says:

      doesn’t most of that rely on simpson’s testimony?  I would imagine that Mueller has way more than Glenn Simpson could even imagine.  All of this dossier double crossing is going to be hard for a jury to grok, so obstruction and money laundering are the most likely ways that Mueller cuts this idiot’s head off

  5. Willis Warren says:

    Let’s say that Millian as source gave Steele alll the Carter Page, Manafort, etc… stuff, the stuff that is easily debunked. The rest of it could still have some merit and get people killed, etc…

    THE PEE TAPE COULD STILL BE REALLLLLLLLLL ;-)

    • Trip says:

      I am as interested in viewing the girthy orange teletubby sex tape, as I was with the Hulk Hogan one. Which is to say, I am completely repelled and filled with revulsion.

  6. Peterr says:

    in response to a Mike Quigley question about Simpson’s non-public production, Simpson first offers up the non-sequitur that Fusion didn’t leak the dossier to BuzzFeed, then offers a seemingly different non-sequitur about the import of Sergei Millian.

    I don’t see Simpson’s immediate reference to Fusion as a non-sequitur at all. Quigley asks several questions in the passive voice (“X was published . . .”, and Simpson wants to make it clear that Fusion is not the unnamed actor. That doesn’t strike me as an unusual thing for a witness being examined by a hostile attorney to want to get on the record. “You can ask all the passive questions you want, but I’m going to speak in the active voice — and deny the insinuations behind your question.”

    As for the Millian comment, Simpson says that they had been talking about him already. Was he mentioned just a few questions earlier, or two hours before this exchange took place? The closer this comment is to that earlier discussion, the less of a non-sequitur this is. I can’t tell from the snip you’ve got here, but is Quigley’s “What got left of the cutting room floor” question an indirect question about Millian (to go with the indirect passive voice nonsense)?

    [Why yes, I’m not a fan of the passive voice, which serves to muddy the waters and lets people avoid being held accountable for their actions, as in the classic “Mistakes were made . . .”. Why do you ask?]

    You could be right in your conclusions here, but I’m not as convinced that these are non-sequiturs as you are.

  7. pseudonymous in nc says:

    One thing I noticed in the HPSCI transcript: Simpson specifically asked Steele to consult his source network about Cohen based on what had shown up in other work, which is presumably what generated the October memos.

    That other strand, according to Simpson, was Ed Baumgartner’s work into financial transactions. So if the working theory is that the Cohen memos in October were relaying disinfo, it’s plausible to think that Cohen and his cohorts might have been initially tipped off about Fusion’s interest from what Baumgartner was doing, and started connecting some dots after Fusion started briefing the press in late September. Not great opsec.

    • Silence Hand says:

      I think that’s simply a normal way to react to Glenn.  A saint you kinda want to punch from time to time.

      I really like visualizing him in his dogshit-infested Brazilian temple.  Seeing his name come up in threads spooling off of Marcy’s astonishing post makes me sad, though.  It’s too bad he can’t be in the same room as actual research right now, and is reduced to bloviating.

      • bmaz says:

        Think that is incredibly unfair to Glenn and the work he has done over the years. And, for what it’s worth, he and Marcy have worked in tandem before.

        • earlofhuntingdon says:

          Ditto.  I thought the framing and “details” chosen for the NYMag piece seemed intentionally derogatory.  That the piece was highly selective in its chosen perspective is evident in its failure to quote Marcy, among many others who had worked with Glenn. I thought the piece was almost unreadable.

        • Silence Hand says:

          Okay, I guess the inflection in my voice isn’t coming across.  Funny how that is.  What I’m saying is that I, too, admire Glenn and the work he’s done.  I also occasionally want to hit him. There’s no reason that he should care about either of those things. He’s a world-historical journalist, and a world-historical pain in the ass.  I’d say that’s not a characterization he’d necessarily object to.  Those things can kind of go together, no?

          My concern about Glenn is that he’s NOT working with Marcy at the moment.  He should.  He’d be a better journalist if he did.

          My other concern about Glenn is that his contrarian impulse may be unchecked at the moment.  Again, in appropriate doses this kind of thing is healthy.  I know this from my own work, which relies on finding the ways in which my colleagues and I are fooling ourselves.  There’s an obdurate, hardened form of this that can become insanity, though.  Exhibit A:  Peter Duesberg, a pretty good molecular biologist and UC Berkeley Professor who to this day denies that HIV is the causative agent of AIDS.  Duesberg enjoyed his corner of celebrity a little too much – and is a cautionary tale against the ossifying power of contrarianism that Greenwald would do well to consider.

          Again, don’t let me be misunderstood – I respect and admire Greenwald.  That doesn’t mean I’ll stop holding him to a standard he established for himself.

          • Watson says:

            I hope that the maximum number of Trumpkins will be taken down for their collaboration with Russian interlopers in the 2016 election.

            Meanwhile, I agree with what I understand to be GG’s point that ‘scary Russians’ (= ‘outside agitators’) are being used to avoid addressing our own faults.

          • Trip says:

            Agreed. Greenwald has acquired a certain degree of celebrity and the trappings that go with it for the static persona. The very thing he critiques others on, although clearly not to the same extent of their rewards or the complete mercenary drive which carries them. That can have the effect of locking one’s self stubbornly into a perspective or opinion, aside from purity of ideological mindset or contrarianism simply for contrarian’s sake.

            That being said, it doesn’t diminish any important work that he has done in the past.

            • Willis Warren says:

              He’s more or less like Chomsky, everything is our fault.  But, Chomsky contributed context free grammar at least.

              Greenwald is married to the idea that Snowden is a hero, which is debatable at best.  There’s clearly a schism between what he thinks about Russia and what this page is doing.

              • Trip says:

                The Russian oligarchs, the Mercers, the Kochs et al have worked on projects together, internationally. The “outreach” through religion as ideology, but really a method of tyranny and control, the side deals, and shared interests of the rich, the siphoning of resources from the bottom to the wealthy above, etc.

                I agree that the US has acted as an imperialist Empire, that our influence and perpetual wars for profit have been damaging (not only to their direct victims, but to the populace here, who are forced to accept less and less in their names), and clearly, we are not the ethical superiority that we claim.

                That having been said, how can you defend the Russian gov’t so frequently, when they are equally part of the international grift, detrimental to their own people?

                Yes, we can evaluate the neocons and neolibs, and their past, leading to where we have arrived. But where we have arrived domestically is devastating and pshawing it or downplaying it isn’t particularly helpful.

                For me, the jury is still out on Snowden and his motives. Although I now think Assange has serious credibility issues.

            • Silence Hand says:

              The river is never at rest.  Greenwald certainly earned his laurels, but mustn’t sleep on them.  Moreover, he’s chosen a profession in which being co-opted is a constant risk.  I think his best work could be ahead of him, but I’m losing faith in that presently.  Maybe I put too much stock in bits like the one in NYMag.

              All that said, I’d submit that when anyone in GG’s profession moves from being an active research-driven journalist to being an AUTHORITY, they’re at peril of losing their way.

              I have noticed a strain of Greenwald-bashing in threads here, which I won’t engage in.

          • bmaz says:

            Silence Hand – Fair enough, can’t argue with much of that. And I occasionally have different views than Glenn, but still like and admire him greatly. Hilariously we were just discussing this yesterday. I thought the article was uneven, but well worth the read. The title pitting Glenn versus Mueller was asinine.

            • Silence Hand says:

              Yeah.  Agree on the title.  Blatant eyeball-grabbing horse shit.  Unfortunately that’s become par for the course industry-wide.

              I appreciate the ping on the tone of my earlier response, BTW.   “Fweet!  Tin ear, offense!  5 yard penalty, repeat response!”

      • Avattoir says:

        A saint you kinda want to punch from time to time.

        Like Saint Louis / Louis IX? IMO the line’s inapt. To me, GG is someone always aiming to discomfort the unjustly comfortable.

  8. NorskieFlamethrower says:

    I would like to know a bit about RICO and whether or not both the Trump laundromat  and the Republican Party could be named in separate RICO indictments. I’m not interested in the probability or even the possibility but whether or not either would meet definitions in the law given what we know now and can reasonably expect to know when Mueller finally unloads. I am thinking that such action(s) could be the final clean up after Trumpty is removed from office.

     

    • Avattoir says:

      What exactly do you think RICO adds to this?

      I’ve seen a lot of comments in all sort of internet threads (tho I can’t remember seeing to many on this website) that appear to imply that whoever’s making the comment somehow thinks pleading RICO adds something substantive to the framing of a given offense to works some magic chemistry on the elements and intent necessary to establish, say, fraud.

      It doesn’t do that!

  9. SpaceLifeForm says:

    OT: Kids these days.

    More inside IC than out it seems. This is seriously fucked up opsec inside IC.

    I seem to recall over 4 years ago that IC was going to get their act together. At least I beleive they said that to Congress after Snowden leaks.

    Note: This is a non-US citizen. If this kid can do this, why can not any foreign agents?

    How can US government with such crap opsec tell the public that everything is under control?

    Clearly, they can not. Clearly they are incompetent to do their job.
    Clearly, they are liars.

    Oh, and if US media somehow wakes up and covers this story soon, well, great, but otherwise I may have a bridge or tower to sell you.

    http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/2018/01/19/british-15-year-old-gained-access-intelligence-operations-afghanistan/amp/

    A 15-year-old gained access to plans for intelligence operations in Afghanistan and Iran by pretending to be the head of the CIA to gain access to his computers, a court has heard.

    At first he was denied access to his computers as he could not name Mr Brennan’s first pet, but on later calls the handler changed the pin and security questions.

    He used similar methods to access Mr Brennan’s AOL account and eventually Gamble was able to access his emails, contacts, his iCloud storage account and his wife’s iPad remotely.

    Gamble used similar techniques to hack the home broadband of Jeh Johnson, the Secretary of Homeland Security, and was able listened to his voicemails and send texts from his phone.

    Around October 2015, when Gamble turned 16, gained access to Mr Giuliano’s home accounts by pretending to be the FBI boss and using the information gained he accessed the FBI’s Law Enforcement Enterprise Portal (Leap).

    This included criminal intelligence and details of police officers and government employees, and Gamble boasted: “This has to be the biggest hack, I have access to all the details the Feds use for background checks.”

    He used his access to steal and post online personal details of Officer Darren Wilson who shot and killed black teenager Michael Brown in Ferguson Missouri.

    His eight month reign of chaos was brought to an end in February 2016 after he gained access to the US Department of Justice’s network over a number of days, accessing details of 20,000 FBI employees and case files including that on the Deepwater Horizon Oil Spill.

  10. earlofhuntingdon says:

    Digby gives a h/t to a piece by Josh Marshall’s yesterday about Trump-Russia and the Wolff book. The punchline about the White House’s chaos boils down to inexperience, need and greed. They made Trump an easy mark, either for Russians, as Marshall points out, or people like Cotton, Miller and Kelly, as Digby points out.

    I don’t buy “inexperience” as an explanation. Obama had little, but he was confident enough to find and use people who had the experience he needed to govern. In different ways, so were Reagan and George W. Bush. The difference boils down to Trump’s other attributes. He is unable to trust anyone outside those in his immediate family who submit to him. He has no core beliefs, beyond how great he is. He has a limited intellect. He is cruel and lies habitually and pervasively. He is a coward with a need to bully and tear down those who know more than he does – not to get a job done but to put himself back in his comfort zone. I think those are better explanations for this White House.

    I focused on something else, though: Marshall’s observation that while Trump and Russia go way back, the campaign approaches seemed like a series of cold calls. From what’s public, they do. But I don’t think we can conclude they were without access to Trump’s financials and tax statements, which Mueller presumably has.

    Manipulators who look for marks would intuitively see that Trump has no practical memory. He cannot practice loyalty or shut up. Those are fundamental to his personality. His handlers, if he has them, would know such things and arrange their manipulation of him accordingly. Cold calls they may be. They may also be a series of handlers, like watchers on a city street, marched through with inducements based on the opportunity of the moment. Pavlov would find the approach familiar.

    https://digbysblog.blogspot.com/
    https://talkingpointsmemo.com/edblog/trump-wolff-and-the-secret-of-the-russia-story

    • Silence Hand says:

      Marshall’s piece was the first thing in this whole affair that actually kept me up at night.  I honestly hadn’t made the germane connection about Wolff’s access, but the fact of it GIVEN WOLFF’S CLEAR PAST ACTIONS is chilling.  I’m sure people whose lives and life’s work this impacts directly have worse insomnia.

      Everything about Trump et al. that Wolff realized and exploited in ’16-’17 has surely been known in full by Putin et al., who have the benefit of a well-groomed state IC, compliant mafiosi, useful idiots, and various regalia.  Add to all of this that any result Putin et al. get from their experiment benefits them immensely.

      I suspect that your “series of handlers”, akin to those coaxing cattle up their stairway to heaven, is the approach here.  Yikes.

      • pseudonymous in nc says:

        This is probably way too simplistic, but I think the idea of “opportunistic situational assistance” is a way to square off 30 years of aspirations and a decade of actually being beholden to ex-USSR money with the apparent cold calls of 2015-16. Did he think he was working with “the mob” when sorting out his concrete deals or his casinos, or taking help from helpful people with connections when it was offered at helpful times? If you don’t have basic morality or the capacity to say no, perhaps.

      • earlofhuntingdon says:

        One would have had to vet him to know of Wolff’s clear past actions.  As seems obvious, this White House doesn’t vet anyone the president likes.  Witness who gets to sit in on the PDB.

        • Trip says:

          Bannon was Trump’s chief smoke-blower, bankrolled by billionaires who set up a ‘populist’ propaganda outlet. He was point man for Wolff and seemed to be the ghostwriter, essentially driving all of the quotes within. Wolff was vetted, just not to Trump’s advantage.

          Side note: the book didn’t drop until after the tax cuts made it through.

        • Silence Hand says:

          Yes.  Mind = blown.  Marshall’s framing of this should, by rights, become the dominant view of the situation.  If a blunt instrument like Wolff can percolate through the Executive more or less at will, what can an actually sophisticated cephalopod like Putin et al. accomplish?  Not to mention domestic actors of all stripes.

          Truly something rotten in the State of Denmark.

        • pseudonymous in nc says:

          Witness who gets to sit in on the PDB.

          Witness what it takes for a roundtable seat at Mar-E-Molument. Money plus obsequiousness (and ideally some scuttlebutt to damage enemies) gets you through the door, few questions asked.

          The jokes about foreign agents signing up for memberships or booking events at Family Business venues aren’t jokes.

  11. earlofhuntingdon says:

    Who the fuck is Bret Stephens and why is he employed by the New York Times?

    His neoconservative academic background, his career and views, make him a mini-David Brooks. That he won a Pulitzer is gobsmacking. As Dean Baker said, hiring good people is so hard these days, the Times couldn’t find a columnist who understood economics. So it hired Bret Stephens.

    • Trip says:

      Increasing the field for subscriptions?  I never understood how the NYT was designated as a “Liberal Rag”, from the right, to begin with. Judith Miller was also a top dog.

    • earlofhuntingdon says:

      My ire is driven by Stephens’s touting that Apple “brought back” $252 billion and expects to pay $38 billion in corporate income tax on it. Wowee.  The usually sober Stephanie Ruhle jumps on the bandwagon.  Even a Chicago political philosophy major like Stephens should realize that the $38 billion figure is about $28 billion lower than it would have been before Trump’s tax changes.

      Apple’s CFO is locking in that tax $28 billion tax savings before a Democratic takeover of the House and Senate, which might make it go poof.  The move is entirely self-serving on Apple’s part.  Its CFO and other top executives will amply reward themselves for it.

      Moreover, Apple’s money was not “offshore”.  It was wherever Apple wanted it.  It was not in the US only for tax accounting purposes.  Which means Apple already had the resources to do whatever on earth it wants to do, like hire 20,000 new people, assuming they are employees and not contractors, and that they are net new hires, not cannibalized from the communities in which they already work.  Stephens also misses that a fiat currency issuing country does not need tax income to fund its budget, or to pay for its children’s health care.  Taxes are about managing demand and inflation.

      All in, Stephens is another expression of the New York Times putting on its best Wall Street Journal twang.

      • Trip says:

        Yep. If I recall correctly, Apple’s “off-shored” money was/is in that very distant country called “Manhattan”.

        The Times has some great investigative journalists, but the editorial page always tended to be more elitist.  The journalists have little to say about the opinionators, they are on a lower echelon.

      • earlofhuntingdon says:

        Trump, as usual, spends before he earns. Might be one reason for those six bankruptcies.

        Apple announced it will incur $38 billion in tax on the $252 billion in income it is finally putting on its US books.  (We’ll have to see how much of that survives as net tax paid, after Apple’s tax accountants get through with it.)  But Trump and the GOP appear already to have spent $31 billion of it, via new tax cuts apparently dropped into that short-term CR the Dems agreed to. (How much of that will end up in Schumer’s NYC?)

        The Dems know how to bargain almost as well as Susan Collins.  They learned it from Barack Obama.

  12. earlofhuntingdon says:

    If Susan Collins believes another promise about future action from McConnell or Trump or Ryan, she can succeed Charlie Brown in credulously trying to kick Lucy’s football.

  13. Rugger9 says:

    OT but could be verrrrrry interesting (h/t Artie Shaw) because any focus in the WH was really due to Kelly, even though misaligned into a xenophobic frenzy.  Apparently Ivanka is in charge of finding the replacement….

    https://www.dailykos.com/stories/2018/1/22/1735034/-Trump-may-fire-a-second-chief-of-staff-as-Kelly-gets-too-big-for-his-britches

    https://www.rawstory.com/2018/01/ivanka-reportedly-takes-charge-firing-trumps-chief-staff-john-kelly-trump-calls-nut-job/

    And, the PA Supreme Court has invalidated political gerrymandering in the Keystone State.

    https://www.rawstory.com/2018/01/pennsylvania-court-congressional-map-unconstitutionally-gerrymandered/

  14. earlofhuntingdon says:

    If the senior Democratic Senator from West Virginia is correct – that what brings our disparate nation together is our military – then we should adopt Spanish as our official language.  That will make the annual coups, the outside interference in our elections, the resource extraction and environmental degradation more commonplace.

  15. JAAG says:

    Is there any remote possibility that some of these obvious Russian approaches evince the work of an FSB agents turned by CIA? We know there were early investigations at FBI and don’t some FBI investigations turn up espionage and then make their way over to CIA where they become counterintel programs? I just cannot see Russians being this obvious over and over again.

    We have Sater lingering around NYC for a decade as an informant, so Iets assume that CIA and FBI can in fact work together, then it would only make a little sense for CIA to work Sater after FBI send him CIA’s way. That would make common sense, why not if you were in their shoes.

    Something just feels too obvious about all of these approaches. Its like every one at the Trump policy table got offered massive amounts of Russian oil dollars, more than I would think oligarchs would readily barter in an obvious way. We also have so many CIA former bureaucrats/agents/constant media sources all lining up to mention just how classically Russian this all looks to their trained eyes. That really gave me pause.

    It all feels like it’s laid on too thick to be the work of russian agents.: I figure that these intel types have more subtlety, but could be very wrong. I get Putin is not known for subtlety himself, and maybe half the point was to show CIA they could mix it up with losing USA candidates and then they (FSB) were mortified when their guy won something they thought he could not win.

    Was the Carter page 17 percent of Ruskoil part of the late stage Dossier misinformation? I don’t know/remember. Thats a huge bribe to give to someone the FSB is presuming to be monitored by CIA when abroad (because he is speaking at energy forums with oligarchs all sides must know are sanctioned already). If you do think this weirdo could get you sanction relief, why not be more subtle about it.

    • greengiant says:

      Sater is reported to have been an FBI deep state asset/informant not just for Mob arrests but also acquiring ground to air missiles from Central Asia. At the same time Sater is close to murders in the US, let’s call it the “oligarchian” mob, threats and beatings to investigators,  Bayrock/Trump SoHo, major actors in WS, and a 40 million plus development scam with Trump’s name on it sealed by a super secret court ruling. There are connections to Forbes editor Paul Klebnikov’s murder in Moscow in 2004 and continuous misdirection and trolling to this day.  But Mueller was FBI director then from 2001 to 2013.

      At the bottom of the dossier Rosneft is not the gifting of 19.5 percent of Rosneft,  but the “brokerage” or investment banking commission so to speak of that 19.5 percent.  Rosneft share supposedly bought by Qatar,  you know the country being blockaded by KSA and another .3 percent by Glencore.  I think the key was first Putin’s denial in July of 2016 of Rosneft buying Bashneft and second Putin’s approval October 6, 2016.

      The win for Putin is anytime disinformation gets attention and anytime a politician or his team are co-opted by paying attention to same.  Hacking the vote counts is usually overlooked in the US.  Nixon vs Kennedy in 1960,  Bush Gore in 2000,  Kerry in 2004,  and in 2016 at least so far.  Most election laws are state laws. Wisconsin and Michigan are two go to states for hacking since there are no official recounts that will detect the hacking. All it will take for Mueller to wrap a up a nice bow is to some find hacker services or voting machines with Eastern bloc origins to be involved.

    • pseudonymous in nc says:

      There’s a lot of guff there. Public transcripts are always pretty circumspect when it comes to the CIA, and Simpson’s testimony to both Senate and House committees left room for off-the-record exchanges. Carter Page’s testimony has a passing reference that’s surely about Langley, but it’s redacted.

      Also, Steele’s a citizen and resident of another fucking country, so HPSCI “summoning” him is mere theatrics.

      Would Steele’s source network have overlapped with that of various CI and state human intelligence agencies? Probably. Was he laundering CIA intel? Dunno, but it’s a leap of faith to say that he was. Occam’s Razor here is perhaps that the people he knew were worth talking to were the people that the CIA and SIS knew were worth talking to.

      • earlofhuntingdon says:

        Nice rebuttal to the Helmer article in NC, which seems to like his work.

        Helmer is a Harvardian, but it would be hard to tell from his writing.  He plays fast and loose with characterizations.  In his opening two paragraphs, he describes Simpson as being on trial in the US, when what he ought to say is that Simpson is being sued for defamation.  A Harvardian would know the difference, as would any journalist, and why it would be important to a reader.

        Helmer generally does not distinguish well among civil and criminal proceedings and political hearings, which leaves the reader adrift in innuendo, making it hard to assess the value of claims made by and against Simpson.  Nor has Helmer taken Will Strunk’s directive to heart: he fails to omit needless words, over and over again.

        This is background to Helmer’s nominal purpose: rebutting criticism of Russia and arguing that the CIA’s [assumed] role in this has not been covered by the MSM.  A fair point.  But it gets lost in Helmer’s breathless style.

        • Trip says:

          Excellent points on setting up Simpson as a criminal on trial first, casting doubt on his character in the opening before later clarifying that he is not, in fact, on trial for any criminal charges. That leaves an immediate taste in your mouth and negative impression emblazoned in your brain.

          • earlofhuntingdon says:

            Given that Helmer has a Harvard education and decades of experience as a writer, it’s fair to assume that he intended to convey those impressions.

            As for the Taibbi piece, Helmer comes across as driven, friendly and a tad reckless, but too hapless and naive for someone who writes about legal, political and intelligence chicanery in post-Cold War Russia and the US.  Granted, he claims to have been taken financially by the love promises of a Russian blonde.  In outline, a learning curve familiar to many.  But given his work, the hard choice is between caricature and metaphor.

            • Trip says:

              I’m not sure if I buy the assassination attempt at all. I think it could be manufactured for street cred. How many journalists escape these attempts and live to see more days of being the critic in Russia, of oligarchs, unless it serves a purpose for the Kremlin?  Perhaps I have been gaslighted one too many times, and I’ve lost my footing on reality, but something kind of stinks about it.

            • earlofhuntingdon says:

              I agree.  If a connected someone in Moscow wanted Helmer dealt with with extreme prejudice, it would have happened: at tea, stupidly walking in front of the man with an oddly tipped umbrella, crossing the street.  The choices are endless, the list of journalists confronted by them long.  Which suggests the attempt was invented, only meant to scare or to create a false trail.

    • bmaz says:

      John Helmer is a fucking quack. Also, he is literally a former KGB asset still loyal to the Kremlin and he literally lives in Moscow. This is absolute garbage, and it does not speak well of NC that they would propagate it.

  16. Silence Hand says:

    What’s public about the path Mr. Millians / Kukuts took to US citizenship, beyond “google Siarhei Kukuts”?  He’s from Belarus, a place where you’re either part of the Lukashenko neo-Stalinist apparatus or a little person who “…toes the line in fear of being detained, prosecuted, and sentenced. Not always in that order”.  Given the activities of Mr. “Do Not Have and Have Never Had Russian Citizenship” noted in Corn’s piece and here, I think it’s smart to say he’s part of the former.

    When Mr. Backdoor Overture get here, and who sponsored his citizenship?  What were his activities in Belarus prior to coming here?  Some people from the notional “opposition” in Belarus ended up living elsewhere after 2010, but it’s not always clear where their loyalties are.

  17. Silence Hand says:

    Following up on my last comment:  Uh, wow!  So maybe I’ve been living under a rock or something, but has everybody here seen Shaun Mullen’s “Comprehensive timeline of the Russia scandal, 1980 ~ 2018” ?  Very gnarly to see this laid out in one massive chunk. I wish that each bit linked to sources, but generally it’s quite solid.  There are a few fringe-y speculative bits I don’t like, but not in the things that matter.

    Mullen, whom I just now discovered, is apparently an old school journalist who covered stuff all the way back to Vietnam.  I’ll be damned if he isn’t bringing some old-school lumber to the current situation.  Appears to be under-read.

    Some form of this timeline would be a useful collaborative graphic representation project…

    http://kikoshouse.blogspot.com/2017/11/a-comprehensive-timeline-of-russia.html

      • Silence Hand says:

        Yes it does.  My sense is that this is a reasonable place to start.  Easier to trim fat then add meat.  Something like this needs to be assembled in an accessible layered fashion.

        The writing is pithy and readable, as are other entries on the blog (which I just ran across)

          • Silence Hand says:

            Yes.  And the Moscow bombings as well.  I’ve noted this in other places, before posting here, including a direct comment to Mullen.  That needs to come out immediately, before any more credibility bleeds out onto the floor.

            I don’t think it invalidates the enterprise – just a fixable error.  Caveat emptor, as always.  If Mullen’s an honest type, as he appears to be, he’ll be open to reason w.r.t. editing.

             

  18. earlofhuntingdon says:

    Why does MSNBC insist that Mueller interviewing Jefferson Beauregard Sessions indicates that “this” is almost over?  The opposite seems more likely.

    And I do wish the NYT would bone up on executive privilege.  To paraphrase Inigo Montoya, I do not think it means what the NYT – and Donald Trump – thinks it means.

    • Trip says:

      And I do wish the NYT would bone up on executive privilege.

      I’m quite certain that they do know what it means, but the MSM has been playing this game of bothsides-equal-treatment, in suspension of disbelief, giving credit to concepts not declared, nor justified and pretending that this isn’t a major clusterfuck of epic proportions; it’s just gov’t business as usual.

      • earlofhuntingdon says:

        I’m sure the NYT’s lawyers know a valid claim of privilege when they see it.  Its reporters should know, too, because Trump will be blowing smoke on this until his nose is as long as his tie.  The claims he has already put forward – disguised as assertions of privilege, non-assertions of privilege, and “because I said so” – are pure time-wasting and deceit.  The NYT needs to call him on it, not just take dictation

  19. earlofhuntingdon says:

    Note to Washington Post: Mueller’s investigation is not only about obstruction of justice. It is almost certainly looking at potential financial crimes (tax fraud, money laundering) – on their own and as the basis for potential blackmail against a sitting president – as well as conspiracy charges, election law violations, perjury, false statements, and other crimes.

    Note, too, that “some folks” in the White House are not concerned that the FBI is out of control. As he often says, the only guy in the White House who counts is Donald Trump. And the issue is not an allegedly out of control Bureau or one that is not doing its job. Those issues would lead to bipartisan commissions, fact finding, recommendations for personnel and budget changes at the top, starting with the Attorney General.

    No, as the president has made clear since coming into office, the issue for Donald Trump is that the Bureau is doing its job. That makes it a potential threat to him, is family, his businesses and its patrons.

  20. Rugger9 says:

    OT but again interesting for several reasons, such as the fact that Mueller did keep it under wraps, this is a decent backgrounder on the potential pitfalls even if only a DKos diary.  If Sessions flips, everyone else is in deep doo-doo (h/t Bush 41), especially those who have (it appears, but that could be a consequence of Mueller’s tight-lipped shop) been trying not to give away too much to the Special Counsel’s investigators.  Unlike many of the others, Sessions has a long record testifying under oath to Congress, and that counts.

    https://www.dailykos.com/stories/2018/1/23/1735360/-Jeff-Sessions-is-NOT-Just-Another-Witness-The-Most-Danger-to-Trump-Yet

    Comey checked in with Mueller too, and let’s remember Comey took a lot of notes that Mueller had for the interviews that followed.

    https://www.rawstory.com/2018/01/mueller-interviewed-james-comey-trump-russia-probe/

    Way off-topic and not of significant political interest but a sign of the times: it appears Melania’s not going to Davos due to the Stormy (sorry) patch in the relationship, which includes missing the 13th anniversary (which would be punished severely if I tried that).  IIRC, back in the day Ivana had made a few ads about “don’t get even, get everything!” during the Marla Maples scandal in Trumpworld.  Her celebratory post on the first year as FLOTUS did not have Donald’s picture or name (she is on the arm of a Marine Captain), and since the Kaiser is all about the Kaiser in the news, this will not be good times in the West Wing because of the apparent shunning.  I can’t blame her even if I give credence to Wolff’s contention (which I do not, however it’s not Nikki, but Hope would be my guess if this checks out) as part of Fire and Fury.   Where this is relevant is that it will potentially distract the Kaiser from what Mueller’s looking at even if his cloud of attorneys keep watch for him.

    https://www.rawstory.com/2018/01/historians-explain-melanias-davos-cancellation-subliminal-message-aimed-directly-trump/

    The picture is here (scroll down): https://www.rawstory.com/2018/01/melania-trump-cancels-trip-president-trump-davos/

    Laugher of the day, not the Onion:

    https://www.rawstory.com/2018/01/camel-beauty-pageant-kicks-12-animals-botox/

    • Rugger9 says:

      Charlie Pierce has more on the Comey / Sessions interviews.  Sessions went last Wednesday, and met the Kaiser at the palace yesterday which may have included a talk about what the RKElf did last week.  This does explain the noise-making last week, however, as an attempt to prevent too much damage from the key issues on obstruction, election interference and money laundering.

      http://www.esquire.com/news-politics/politics/a15856780/mueller-sessions-comey/

      So, while the Stormy (sorry) skies still dominate over DC, it did serve something of a purpose for the palace in that no one talked about what Mueller knows.  As I noted before, Mueller knows the answers (or at least 80% of them) before asking his questions from the information he already has so everyone that is interviewed gets to decide whether to tell the truth (whatever the consequences of being finished in the palace), or continue the cover-up (and face prosecution for lying to an investigator like Martha Stewart who could afford white-shoe lawyers). 

      CREW noticed an odd payment for “rent” not tied to any other activity at 130 k$ in election filings which means campaign funds might have been used to pay off Ms. Clifford and that is illegal.  It is also in line with the Kaiser’s habit of using other people’s money to pay his bills, so there is a ring of truth to the claim.  CREW filed suit to get answers.

  21. Rugger9 says:

    Another “careful what you wish for” consequence of the Dominionists trying to impose Old Testament rule on the nation without being specific enough: it seems the religious freedom idea used as code for Dominionist evangelical martyrdom has been used by the Satanic Temple to go after some anti-abortion laws requiring ultrasounds and RTL information in Missouri.  Just as was seen during the Oklahoma attempt to have a Judeo-Christian statue garden at the state capital, the Establishment Clause of the First Amendment has risen up to bite the modern-day Pharisees in the arse.  Hahahahahaha.

    https://www.rawstory.com/2018/01/satanic-temple-says-abortion-laws-violate-rights/

  22. earlofhuntingdon says:

    In any country, the agency normally closest, most beholden and loyal to its president is his justice department – and the prosecutorial and enforcement arms beneath her. It is a fundamental part of maintaining a hold on power.

    Mr. Trump has spent his entire administration fighting his Department of Justice and its FBI, under heads that he appointed or adopted. That might be the most abnormal part of Donald Trump’s abnormal administration. That’s saying a lot, but not about a president who seems to value his relationship with Russia’s Vladimir Putin above his own country’s Department of Justice. It is impossible to overstate how extraordinary that is. How dangerous. It is the conduct of a criminal, afraid that the law might finally reach him.

    Finally, MSM please stop saying “perjury trap”. Talking to Bob Mueller is not a trap. Making it one is entirely within the president’s control. The president can tell the truth. As quaint as it sounds, Donald Trump has legal, moral and political obligations to do that. Or he can continue his habitual lying. If the latter, it is not the fault of Bob Mueller, or the FBI, or the law. The fault would be Donald Trump’s. Submitting to an interview and candidly answering questions by his own FBI’s special counsel is the president’s duty. It is acting out his constitutional oath to enforce the law, part of his obligation as head of state.

  23. 64000q says:

    Emptywheel,

    This is a very important question regarding HPSCI and the re-authorization bill process brought up on Tuesday. Did, Burr remove language to the bill highlighted by The Intercept that would allow the Intelligence Community unlimited spending with zero over sight my the Senate Intelligence committee?

    “…top Republican and Democrat on the Intelligence Committee warned that the bill contains language that would kneecap Congress’s ability to oversee secret covert actions and surveillance programs. Their effort to amend the language was rebuffed… Burr said, noticing Sen. Thad Cochran, the Republican chair of the Senate Appropriations Committee, conspicuously present in the chamber. Cochran did indeed object, and Burr then yielded the Senate floor with “with great disappointment.”… On one amendment, Cochran voted “yes” despite being told by an aide to vote “no” … Several more moments passed before Cochran realized he was voting the wrong way and then changed his vote.” -The intercept

    https://theintercept.com/2018/01/22/the-top-republican-warns-under-new-spending-bill-the-intelligence-community-could-expend-funds-as-it-sees-fit/

    So, which is it? Was the wide open NSA/CIA spending language in the bill actually changed to bring some oversight to the Intelligence Community apparatus?

  24. JAAG says:

    I am not an American. Rule of law in your country is now a bloody, smelly corpse writhing on the floor, whimpering with its last gasp. We cannot fathom what is happening to you people. Please get your shit together.

    Sincerely,
    The civilized world.

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