The Latest on Trump and Russia

A few important items of note today...

As you may recall, back in December 2016, President Obama announced punitive measures against Russia, which included shutting down two Russian intelligence compounds in Maryland and New York. I wrote about it at the time for Shareblue: Obama Administration Hits Back Hard Against Russia for Election Interference.

Now, Donald Trump is restoring those compounds to Russian control. Karen DeYoung and Adam Entous at the Washington Post: Trump Administration Moves to Return Russian Compounds in Maryland and New York.
Before making a final decision on allowing the Russians to reoccupy the compounds, the administration is examining possible restrictions on Russian activities there, including removing the diplomatic immunity the properties previously enjoyed. Without immunity, the facilities would be treated as any other buildings in the United States and would not be barred to entry by U.S. law enforcement, according to people who spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss sensitive diplomatic matters.

Any concessions to Moscow could prove controversial while administration and former Trump campaign officials are under congressional and special counsel investigation for alleged ties to Russia.
One might also consider it "controversial" that the Trump administration is considering handing control of the compounds back to Russia given that Russia publicly threatened "counter measures" last week unless the property was given back to them.

screen cap of tweet from Russia in USA reading: 'Russia is seeking to return its diplomatic property in #US🇺🇸 asap. Otherwise, we will have to take counter measures.' and a response from CAP Senior Fellow Ken Gude reading: 'Russia explicitly threatened Trump a week ago: give us back the sites or else. Trump gives them back. That's called leverage.'

The administration is also considering handing back compounds thought to be used for intelligence operations inside the U.S. even as more evidence is revealed every day about the myriad ways Russian intelligence fucked with our election—and, as a significant report by Ali Watkins for Politico details, U.S. intelligence officials have concluded that "the Kremlin is waging a quiet effort to map the United States' telecommunications infrastructure, perhaps preparing for an opportunity to disrupt it."

Donald Trump says he did not collude with and is not compromised by Russia. But everyone around him has ties to Russia, which they've sought to conceal. He is so desperate to stop an investigation that would exonerate him (if he is innocent as he claims), that he may have obstructed justice by trying to coerce the former FBI Director to halt the investigation and then firing him when he wouldn't. And, in the last week, he has delivered to Russia their chief foreign policy goal for 70 years, and now stands to hand back compounds from which they orchestrate intelligence ops, even as U.S. intelligence officials warn they are committing espionage that appears to have the objective of massive disruption for the U.S.

Fishy doesn't begin to describe it.


[Content Note: Video may autoplay at link] Jim Sciutto, Jamie Gangel, Shimon Prokupecz, and Marshall Cohen at CNN: Sources: Congress Investigating Another Possible Sessions-Kislyak Meeting.
Congressional investigators are examining whether Attorney General Jeff Sessions had an additional private meeting with Russia's ambassador during the presidential campaign, according to Republican and Democratic Hill sources and intelligence officials briefed on the investigation.

Investigators on the Hill are requesting additional information, including schedules from Sessions, a source with knowledge tells CNN. They are focusing on whether such a meeting took place April 27, 2016, at the Mayflower Hotel in Washington, DC, where then-candidate Donald Trump was delivering his first major foreign policy address. Prior to the speech, then-Sen. Sessions and Russian Ambassador Sergey Kislyak attended a small VIP reception with organizers, diplomats, and others.
Stephanie Kirchgaessner, Nick Hopkins, and Luke Harding at the Guardian: Nigel Farage Is 'Person of Interest' in FBI Investigation into Trump and Russia.
Sources with knowledge of the investigation said the former Ukip leader had raised the interest of FBI investigators because of his relationships with individuals connected to both the Trump campaign and Julian Assange, the WikiLeaks founder whom Farage visited in March.

...Farage has not been accused of wrongdoing and is not a suspect or a target of the US investigation. But being a person of interest means investigators believe he may have information about the acts that are under investigation and he may therefore be subject to their scrutiny.

Sources who spoke to the Guardian said it was Farage's proximity to people at the heart of the investigation that was being examined as an element in their broader inquiry into how Russia may have worked with Trump campaign officials to influence the US election.

"One of the things the intelligence investigators have been looking at is points of contact and persons involved," one source said. "If you triangulate Russia, WikiLeaks, Assange, and Trump associates the person who comes up with the most hits is Nigel Farage. He's right in the middle of these relationships. He turns up over and over again. There's a lot of attention being paid to him."
Naturally, Farage has denied that he has anything to do with Russian interference in the U.S. election, and his spokesperson told the Guardian that their questions about Farage's activities were "verging on the hysterical."

And finally: The House Intelligence Committee has issued seven subpoenas related to its investigation into Russian interference. It's enough to make one imagine the Republicans on the committee are actually interested in finally doing their jobs—until you find out that three of them "are related to questions about how and why the names of associates of [Donald] Trump were unredacted and distributed within classified reports by Obama administration officials during the transition between administrations."

Well. It was a nice democratic country while we had it.

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