A Focus on Florida: What Happened to the Three Campaign Officials Chatting with Yevgeniy Prigozhin’s Trolls?

I want to go back to something I’ve been uniquely obsessed about for almost an entire year. As I’ve noted, the Internet Research Agency indictment describes the IRA trolls interacting with three Trump campaign officials that it describes in the manner used with possible co-conspirators.

74. On or about August 15, 2016, Defendants and their co-conspirators received an email at one of their false U.S. persona accounts from a real U.S. person, a Florida-based political activist identified as the “Chair for the Trump Campaign” in a particular Florida county. The activist identified two additional sites in Florida for possible rallies. Defendants and their co-conspirators subsequently used their false U.S. persona accounts to communicate with the activist about logistics and an additional rally in Florida.

75. On or about August 16, 2016, Defendants and their co-conspirators used a false U.S. persona Instagram account connected to the ORGANIZATION-created group “Tea Party News” to purchase advertisements for the “Florida Goes Trump” rally.

76. On or about August 18, 2016, the real “Florida for Trump” Facebook account responded to the false U.S. persona “Matt Skiber” account with instructions to contact a member of the Trump Campaign (“Campaign Official 1”) involved in the campaign’s Florida operations and provided Campaign Official 1’s email address at the campaign domain donaldtrump.com. On approximately the same day, Defendants and their co-conspirators used the email address of a false U.S. persona, [email protected], to send an email to Campaign Official 1 at that donaldtrump.com email account, which read in part:

Hello [Campaign Official 1], [w]e are organizing a state-wide event in Florida on August, 20 to support Mr. Trump. Let us introduce ourselves first. “Being Patriotic” is a grassroots conservative online movement trying to unite people offline. . . . [W]e gained a huge lot of followers and decided to somehow help Mr. Trump get elected. You know, simple yelling on the Internet is not enough. There should be real action. We organized rallies in New York before. Now we’re focusing on purple states such as Florida.

The email also identified thirteen “confirmed locations” in Florida for the rallies and requested the campaign provide “assistance in each location.”

77. On or about August 18, 2016, Defendants and their co-conspirators sent money via interstate wire to another real U.S. person recruited by the ORGANIZATION, using one of their false U.S. personas, to build a cage large enough to hold an actress depicting Clinton in a prison uniform.

78. On or about August 19, 2016, a supporter of the Trump Campaign sent a message to the ORGANIZATION-controlled “March for Trump” Twitter account about a member of the Trump Campaign (“Campaign Official 2”) who was involved in the campaign’s Florida operations and provided Campaign Official 2’s email address at the domain donaldtrump.com. On or about the same day, Defendants and their co-conspirators used the false U.S. persona [email protected] account to send an email to Campaign Official 2 at that donaldtrump.com email account.

79. On or about August 19, 2016, the real “Florida for Trump” Facebook account sent another message to the false U.S. persona “Matt Skiber” account to contact a member of the Trump Campaign (“Campaign Official 3”) involved in the campaign’s Florida operations. On or about August 20, 2016, Defendants and their co-conspirators used the “Matt Skiber” Facebook account to contact Campaign Official 3.

Since this indictment was rolled out last February, no one has identified these three Trump campaign officials nor what they did in response to dangles from Yevgeniy Prigozhin’s trolls.

That said, contrary to the assumption made when a DC-based team of US Attorneys joined the IRA prosecution team, DOJ’s investigation on this front has continued. Not only was IRA accountant Elena Alekseevna Khusyaynova charged in EDVA last September (the complaint was unsealed in October, during a pre-election disinformation campaign involving IRA trolls), but in August, Mueller prosecutor Rush Atkinson was still pursuing investigative action in the IRA case (this means it’s possible that the involvement of a DC prosecutor in Roger Stone’s prosecution serves largely to keep the Mueller team targeting him focused on other aspects of their investigation of him).

In any case, since the mention of three different campaign officials interacting with Prigozhin’s trolls, we’ve gotten a number of other reasons to be interested in what happened in Florida in 2016.

Obviously, there’s Roger Stone. The actions laid out in his existing indictment largely take place in DC and NY, but we know Mueller has pursued (and continues to pursue, with Andrew Miller) testimony from aides working for Stone elsewhere, including in Florida. We know in May 2016, for example, Stone met in Florida with a Russian using the name Henry Greenberg offering dirt on Hillary. In principle, his denials on that should be taken no more seriously than his denials pertaining to WikiLeaks, but he was willing to correct his testimony on that point, unlike his testimony on WikiLeaks.

And there are other connections in Florida of interest. In a piece adding to stuff we already knew about Sergei Millian (which bizarrely remains silent about Ivan Timofeev and Oleg Deripaska’s ties to him, or his promise to build a Trump Tower), the WaPo describes how Millian worked with a Florida-based Russian named Mikhail Morgulis to build support in Florida.

As he was working to build a relationship with Papadopoulos in 2016, Millian also offered to serve as a conduit to the Trump campaign for a Belarusan author in Florida with connections to the Russian government, according to emails obtained by The Washington Post.

The author, Mikhail Morgulis, who said he never ended up hearing from anyone in the campaign, later claimed that he rallied Russian Americans to back Trump.

[snip]

Morgulis took credit in interviews with Russian media for helping to elect Trump by organizing Russian-speaking voters.

“I personally visited 11 cities in Florida, where I said that if you want our new president to be a homosexual . . . vote for Hillary,” he said a July 2017 interview with the Russian government-funded outlet Sputnik, touting a false claim popular among some conservative conspiracy theorists. In the interview, he also said he had briefly met both Trump and his son-in-law, Jared Kushner.

Then consider this detail from BuzzFeed’s report on what Suspicious Activity Reports say about Rinat Akhmetshin’s finances. Rather than getting paid by Lanny Wiles — as had previously been portrayed — Akhmetshin was in fact paying Wiles.

Akhmetshin continued receiving checks and wires from Wiles Consulting, a Florida-based company controlled by Lanny Wiles, a longtime Republican operator. Those payments, which began in January 2016, extended to April 2017, and totaled $72,500.

Investigators at Akhmetshin’s bank said the direction of the payments — from Wiles to Akhmetshin — contrasted with how their working relationship had been portrayed publicly. Investigators, citing unspecified public information, said Wiles claimed he was paid by Akhmetshin to work on the Magnitsky lobbying issue, not the other way around. The investigators did not cite their source, but a 2016 Politico article quoted Wiles saying he had been paid by Akhmetshin. Investigators at Bank of America did find that the foundation had issued checks to Wiles, but the amount is unclear. Wiles, whose wife was the chair of Trump’s Florida campaign, did not return messages seeking comment.

In the same Politico article, Wiles said he didn’t want to register as a foreign agent, but that Akhmetshin had told him it wouldn’t be necessary, as he would be working for BakerHostetler.

In the wake of the Natalia Veselnitskaya indictment in December, the government will have an easy time arguing that Akhmetshin and Wiles’ lobbying will easily be demonstrated to be work on behalf of Russia.

As noted, Wiles’ wife, Susie, was Trump’s Florida campaign chair, and the woman who got Veselnitskaya a seat in a hearing on Magnitsky sanctions.

Update: The Wiles’ daughter, Caroline Wiles, quit her White House job as director of scheduling after it became clear she’d fail a background check. (h/t LR)

Among those who won’t be working at the White House was President Donald Trump’s director of scheduling, Caroline Wiles, the daughter of Susan Wiles, Trump’s Florida campaign director and former campaign manager for Governor Rick Scott. Wiles, who resigned Friday before the background check was completed, was appointed deputy assistant secretary before the inauguration in January. Two sources close to Wiles said she will get another job in Treasury.

There seems to be a lot more that happened with Trump’s campaign in Florida in 2016 than we currently know about. Including the three campaign officials mentioned in the still active investigation into Yevgeniy Prigozhin’s trolls.

As I disclosed last July, I provided information to the FBI on issues related to the Mueller investigation, so I’m going to include disclosure statements on Mueller investigation posts from here on out. I will include the disclosure whether or not the stuff I shared with the FBI pertains to the subject of the post. 

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41 replies
  1. ken abbott says:

    EW- if they have the e-mails, don’t they have the identities that the e-mail addresses belong to?
    I know there are dumb questions raised in these comments-
    I hope this is not one of them.

    • chicago_bunny says:

      It’s DOJ policy not to name individuals who are not charged, so the failure to name them in the complaint does not mean they are unknown.  Mueller surely knows who these folks are, it’s just that public confirmation of their identities has not been forthcoming.

  2. Trip says:

    This is something the Librarian kept hammering on. Interesting.

    On Florida: whatever happened to the investigation that Russian pension money was being diverted to pay for operatives?
    Russia’s pension money for its veterans escapes scrutiny as it flows into US
    https://www.mcclatchydc.com/news/nation-world/national/article133879684.html

    In the other direction, who decided to invest FL pension money into sanctioned Russian companies?
    Florida pension investments flow to Russian companies targeted by Trump administration
    https://www.politico.com/states/florida/story/2018/07/09/florida-pension-investments-flow-to-russian-companies-targeted-by-trump-administration-499369

    • Anne says:

      Sounds like the Russian pension payments system is a mess.

      I’m collecting an Italian pension.  The Italian equivalent of the Social Security Administration has outsourced all its foreign payments to Citibank UK.  Citibank, with its branches everywhere, can handle all the local languages (e.g., certificates of life existence notarized in two languages).  It direct-deposits to the pensioner’s foreign bank, not an Italian one, since that would incur Italian withholding.  Any hassles with Citibank and I have to call Ireland, where they have their Italian call center.  So any investigation into Italian pensions would be easy, just call Citibank.  The Russians don’t seem so organized.  Maybe on purpose?

  3. BobCon says:

    Florida makes sense. Outside of the NYC metro area, Florida probably has the most Russian (ahem) characters. And unlike the NYC area, Florida was going to be a must win target for Trump.

  4. clairence says:

    So, if one is ‘compromised’ and not able to pass a background check for a simple WH job, they’re still good for a job at Treasury?

    • BobCon says:

      There are a lot of government jobs which don’t require security clearance, and for good reason. The security clearance process is overloaded as it is, and if you wanted to clear everyone, it would take forever.

      The things that hold up clearances range from fairly minor to very disturbing. It’s possible she was found to have a talking moose and flying squirrel locked up in her basement, but it’s also possible that she made a few bad choices involving recreational drugs in college or used to have a gambling problem. Sometimes these things get held up simply because it’s hard verifying information someone submits.

      Ideally, everyone in the government has a record as pure as driven snow, but in reality you won’t hire many people if you set the bar too high, so she may not have done anything. Or, of course, she may have been caught tying an inspector’s daughter to the railroad tracks.

      • RWood says:

        I remember being questioned by Army Intelligence officers when going through the process. Found out my parents visited Cuba once for a weekend.

        “You’re asking what I know about my parents travels years before I was born?”

        “Okay, next question.”

        Sometimes they really earn that oxymoron tag.

        • P J Evans says:

          They insist that you answer the questions on the form, which was first invented about 1947, and parts of it have never been updated.(My father would sometimes have to call home to get the birthdates for his siblings, in order to get the necessary temp clearance for whatever extremely-classified project he was working on. Genealogy being a family hobby, we have the data, but it isn’t something that you normally need at work.)

          • Savage Librarian says:

            I passed the test. Was told I was #1 out of 500. Moved from Midwest to where the sun shines more often than not. Worked for the Feds, then later for local gov.

            • bmaz says:

              There are not rankings, and if there were, you would never know. You are blowing bunk again, and it is really tiring.

              Do not do that here. Do not blow shit up our commentary section’s ass.

              • AndTheSlithyToves says:

                Hm-m-m. I took Savage Librarian to be saying that he/she was the only one of 500 to pass the security clearance. Although that probably wouldn’t have been divulged either.

                • bmaz says:

                  Really?? Then why did they say they were “#1”? This is a total load of horse manure. Just like when this duplicitous commenter said they had big money donors lined up to fund us, but put the kibosh on because we caught them on some minor, but obvious, crap. Do not feed this fabulist bunk.

            • SelfAbsorbed says:

              You passed what test? A background check? I have never experienced one myself but my general understanding is that they don’t require much skill other than ones ability to not lie. I don’t really understand how and/or why anyone would rank 500 people in order of “best to worst not-liars” but maybe I’m just confused since I haven’t worked for the Feds nor local gov.

              Regardless, congratulations on having the #1 background out of 500 people, that seems like a totally real thing that happened and it’s super obvious how one would go about deciding who has the best background in an objective way which enables comparisons… oh wait…. that makes zero fucking sense

  5. Buford says:

    Umm…is this the same scandal that Rep. Matt Gaetz was seen skulking around in the background? He has been in the news lately and was being a real asswipe…how encompassing is this? ok then…my time is up…

  6. P J Evans says:

    I’m hearing that BDTS is sayign he won’t show up and testify before the House committee…and I can’t tell if BDTS is really that dim, or if he thinks that they can’t subpoena him or have him arrested if he refuses it.

      • allison holland says:

        I think Whitaker and those who have chosen the dark and traitorous path of Trump Authoritarianism have too often thought of themselves to be just like the oligarchs they so admire and wish to become. It is as if they feel they live over there and not here and that all Trump has to do is threaten someone in order to get a crony’s charges dropped. I am sure they dream of dropping Mueller from a two story window and locking up Shiffs children. So many of them have chosen to fight rather than tell the truth. It makes me uneasy.

  7. RWood says:

    “Among those who won’t be working at the White House was President Donald Trump’s director of scheduling, Caroline Wiles, the daughter of Susan Wiles, Trump’s Florida campaign director and former campaign manager for Governor Rick Scott.”

    Been waiting two years for the name Rick Scott to be mentioned in a Drump investigation article.

    Warms my heart.

  8. harpie says:

    ew:

    Then consider this detail from BuzzFeed’s report on what Suspicious Activity Reports say about Rinat Akhmetshin’s finances. Rather than getting paid by Lanny Wiles — as had previously been portrayed — Akhmetshin was in fact paying Wiles.

    Seems like the article is saying the opposite, here:

    Investigators at Akhmetshin’s bank said the direction of the payments — from Wiles to Akhmetshin — contrasted with how their working relationship had been portrayed publicly.

      • Cathy says:

        I see that there may be a typo involved in which direction of payments is considered surprising, but the post’s underlying observation that the lobbying is murky and leaves the impression that it is on behalf of Russia is still sound. The BuzzFeed quote mentions payments in both directions (my emphasis below), so which direction does Marcy’s post wish to highlight to support a premise of Russia lobbying?

        Investigators at Akhmetshin’s bank said the direction of the payments — from Wiles to Akhmetshin — contrasted with how their working relationship had been portrayed publicly. Investigators, citing unspecified public information, said Wiles claimed he was paid by Akhmetshin to work on the Magnitsky lobbying issue, not the other way around. The investigators did not cite their source, but a 2016 Politico quoted Wiles saying he had been paid by Akhmetshin. Investigators at Bank of America did find that the foundation had issued checks to Wiles, but the amount is unclear.

  9. Areader2019 says:

    The Trump campaign conspired with Russian intelligence.   That is what this looks like to me.  (Manafort hearing)

    This goes, I think, very much to the heart of what the Special Counsel’s Office is investigating. And in 2016 there is an in-person meeting with someone who the Government has certainly proffered to this Court in the past, is understood by the FBI, assessed to be — have a relationship with Russian intelligence, that there is —————-.

    And there is an in-person meeting at an unusual time for somebody who is the campaign chairman to be spending time, and to be doing it in person.

  10. P J Evans says:

    @Savage Librarian February 7, 2019 at 2:46 pm
    I’ve gotten scores like that on various standardized tests, but still didn’t get in, because there were other tests or factors involved. Scores and rankings don’t mean a lot. [Favorite standardized test: the one on “mechanical reasoning”. I haven’t had so much fun on one in years: “A large helicopter and a small helicopter are on the surface of the moon. Which one will lift off first?” (My answer was “neither” – no air, no aerodynamics. I don’t know what they had as the “correct” answer.)]

    • Savage Librarian says:

      Thanks, P J Evans,

      The person who told me that had been in the system for a couple of decades. Not somebody I trusted. I actually thought it was a little creepy.

      It felt like somebody trying to work an angle. I blew it off at the time. But since the topic came up here, I remembered it.

      I debated about mentioning it. I can see how it comes across wrong. I appreciate your comment.

  11. orionATL says:

    bmaz, 7/[email protected]:12p

    i can’t speak for the accuracy of very specific details, but from the initial comments on, my intuition matches yours. i observe much lengthy self-promoting, much irrelevant egotism on display, a strange, grating sort of power-seeking.

  12. orionATL says:

    pj evans 2/7/[email protected]:10pm

    as i recall,  this same question of congressional power to demand compliance arose during the cheney/bush occupation of the presidency. strange conincidence.

    the major issues then as now are:

    1) who bells the cat – which police force detains, arrests, and holds the miscreant?

    2) where is this uncooperative soul actually housed and fed?

    the article rayne cites gives us the details.

    this situation can be seen as the clever rock, scissors, paper nature of the tripartite government designed at the constitutional convention in philadelphia in 1787.

    the congress may not have an effective police/military force, but only the cogress can authorize taxes and federal government outlays of money, and ratify executive appointments and treaties.

    the supreme court and the federal judiciary rely on the federal and state executives’ police and detention powers but can challenge both. the federal judiciary relies on congressional appropriations and decisions about court size, and on congressional approval of  executive appointments to the courts.

    the executive is constrained by congressional powers to tax and authorize funds and its power to agree and ratify, or refuse, e.g., appointments and treaties  and to investigate. the courts have the power of the “unconstitutional” as applied to executive and legislative actions.

  13. orionATL says:

    bobcon et al. 2/[email protected]:09p

    these security clearance forms (form 86) are requested by the government department or contractor who wants you to have a clearance. you don’t just walk into a post office, pick one up, and fill it out.

    the forms are a byte in the ass to fill out, they are looonng (76pp?). they are detailed. they require you to call up mom and dad and hope they can remember the many places where you and they lived when you were a child. schools and colleges (do they ask for daycare centers these days :) ), and jobs, and jobs, and jobs…

    https://www.thebalancecareers.com/sf-86-security-clearance-questionaire-4058541

    help yourself to a pdf form but never push “print”.

  14. Laura says:

    @clairance
    @orionATL

    I’ve had a security clearance for two decades. Many government jobs require them – State, Treasury, DOE, etc. – but you’re right, they’re not just something you request.

    I get so cranky when I think how easily a bunch of obviously corrupt clowns in this administration have beenso blatantly waved through the process. Last year I got my hand (lightly) slapped because I failed to disclose I’d sold a house and deposited 40K in my account, within the required 60 day financial reporting window. Figuratively speaking, holding a security clearance requires you to strip your life naked to an FBI agent (if you’re lucky; they tend to be more competent) or a OPM contractor (the shopping-mall-rent-a-cop checker of your SF86). You get no insight into the adjudication process – it’s completely opaque. Sorry, Librarian, no ranking exists for ‘clearability;’ maybe you’re thinking of one of the civil service aptitude screenings.

    Anyway, the idea that creepy-KSA-fanboy-Jared-freaking-Kushner was granted any kind of clearance just makes my blood boil.

    • Savage Librarian says:

      Thanks, Laura,

      Yes, you may be right. It was almost 40 years ago. I worked for DOD, at one time for a nuclear sub base. Had to have a pass to get on  various bases for nine years. Way back then there was one registry to apply for positions throughout the US and it’s allies. Now I think it is a decentralized process.

      It was a year after I filled out the extensive paperwork before I was contacted out of the blue one day. I was happy where I was at the time.  But my mother convinced me to accept the position.

      After that, at one time I was offered a position in  Bahrain by a former supervisor. That did not hold any appeal for me. Another person kept trying to get me to apply for the CIA. Nope, not for me. I know it sounds bizarre. But these kinds of things actually do happen

      Thanks for the memory assist.

  15. P J Evans says:

    @Laura February 8, 2019 at 6:42 pm
    I only ever had a secret clearance, and that for only a year, at one place I worked (before I got out of any place dealing with DOD). The form was a lot shorter and simpler, way back then – but you still had a lot to account for. Fortunately, I’d only lived in a few places at that point, and could ask my parents to make sure I got them correct. (I still respect the very few actually-secret things I dealt with – and that was 40 years ago.)

    • Laura says:

      I deal with so little classified these days!  It’s nice.  And I never had to work with any of the really sensitive stuff anyway, thank god.

      People don’t realize that holding a clearance doesn’t mean you’ve got access to anything meaningful or even interesting –  need-to-know is a real thing.  These days I rarely touch sensitive data.   But if people around you are working with sensitive info, you may need a clearance just to get into your office.  That’s my situation – even our cleaning staff are cleared, they have to be.

      Anyway, enough OPSEC fuckery for me. I’m going back to reading about popcorn varietals! 🍿

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