Obama Administration Treasury Officials Emailed with Kremlin Through Back Channels During 2016 Election

Anthony Cormier and Jason Leopold at BuzzFeed: Russian Agents Sought Secret U.S. Treasury Records on Clinton Backers During 2016 Campaign.
U.S. Treasury Department officials used a Gmail back channel with the Russian government as the Kremlin sought sensitive financial information on its enemies in America and across the globe, according to documents reviewed by BuzzFeed News.

The extraordinary unofficial line of communication arose in the final year of the Obama administration — in the midst of what multiple U.S. intelligence agencies have said was a secret campaign by the Kremlin to interfere in the U.S. election. Russian agents ostensibly trying to track ISIS instead pressed their American counterparts for private financial documents on at least two dozen dissidents, academics, private investigators, and American citizens.

...Russia's financial crimes agency, whose second-in-command is a former KGB officer and schoolmate of President Vladimir Putin, also asked the Americans for documents on executives from two prominent Jewish groups, the Anti-Defamation League and the National Council of Jewish Women, as well as Kremlin opponents living abroad in London and Kiev.

In an astonishing departure from protocol, documents show that at the same time the requests were being made, Treasury officials were using their government email accounts to send messages back and forth with a network of private Hotmail and Gmail accounts set up by the Russians, rather than communicating through the secure network usually used to exchange information with other countries.

...[D]ocuments reviewed by BuzzFeed News reveal that Russia's attempts to extract information about Western targets triggered alarms inside the Financial Crimes Enforcement Network, or FinCEN, a powerful unit of the Treasury Department with exclusive access to the most comprehensive and sophisticated financial database in the world.

Officials at FinCEN said they reported the use of the back channel to Treasury's counterterrorism unit and security office, and requested an investigation.

...The FinCEN officials reported the incidents in July and August 2016, and claim that there was no substantive investigation of the matter. These sources said that other senior officials continued to use the back channel even after they were told to stop by the Treasury's office for security.
There is much more at the link.

This report is absolutely extraordinary. Not only were employees of Obama's Treasury department aiding the Kremlin in its campaign to subvert the 2016 election, but they were sharing information on Russian dissidents with a regime whose leader is known for ordering the assassination of his critics.

And they kept doing it even after they were told to stop, which, in addition to suggesting these were people who were either profoundly compromised or eager co-conspirators, makes one wonder why they even had a second chance to keep passing information to Russia, as opposed to being immediately removed from their positions.

I have a lot of thoughts on this disturbing revelation, many of which I'm not keen to share publicly at the moment, but I'll note four things:

1. "Russian agents ostensibly trying to track ISIS instead pressed their American counterparts for private financial documents" — Yet again, "working with Russia to defeat ISIS" appears. I really do not understand why I am the only person who noticed and has been screaming about the "work with Russia to defeat ISIS" planks in every candidacy but Hillary Clinton's during the 2016 election, because that is the trail of breadcrumbs to collusion with Russia. It indicates that every campaign but Clinton's had been infiltrated by the Kremlin, and now we discover at least one cabinet in Obama's administration was, too, under the same pretenses.

2. I suspect the odds are very long indeed that Hillary Clinton didn't know, or at least suspect, any of that. The question is how long she has known or suspected. Is the fact that people around Obama and/or people in high levels of the federal government were compromised by Russia partly (or wholly) why she decided to use her own server at State? If so, this has been going on way longer than we knew. (And her decision to use that private server looks smarter by the goddamn day.)

3. Where was then-Secretary of State John Kerry while all of this was happening? If he is truly keen to mount another presidential run in 2020, he's got some pretty big questions to answer.

4. I am very concerned that this disclosure is prelude to Republicans' launching a "Democrats colluded!" offensive that will be used to try to obfuscate the ongoing collusion of the sitting president.

None of this is good. And I am very concerned.

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