Roger Stone Met With Russian Who Wanted Trump to Pay for Dirt on Hillary Clinton

In a new report from The Washington Post Sunday, it was revealed Roger Stone, the infamous  political strategist and longtime friend of President Donald Trump, met with a Russian who offered him dirt on Hillary Clinton.

Stone told the Post  the meeting occurred in May 2016 when he spoke with a man who said his name was Henry Greenberg. According to the report, Greenberg was sporting a signature Make America Great Again hat and had a distinct Russian accent.

Upon offering up the information on Clinton, Trump’s then-challenger for the presidential seat, Greenberg allegedly told Stone he wanted $2 million from Trump in exchange.

However, Stone recalls having passed up on the payment, telling the man Trump wouldn’t shell out the cash.

“You don’t understand Donald Trump,” Stone said, per his account in the Post. “He doesn’t pay for anything.”

Stone later received a text from Trump’s campaign adviser Michael Caputo, who had organized the meeting and wanted to know how it went.

“Wants big &$ for the info- waste of time,” Stone replied.

“The Russian way,” Caputo wrote back. “Anything at all insteresting?”

“No,” Stone said.

Both now say they believe the meeting was a setup and that Greenberg claimed he worked as an FBI informant, which the Post was able to verify through documentation.

The Post reports:

“Interviews and additional documents show that Greenberg has at times used the name Henry Oknyansky. Under that name, he claimed in a 2015 court filing related to his immigration status that he had provided information to the FBI for 17 years. He attached records showing that the government had granted him special permission to enter the United States because his presence represented a ‘significant public benefit.’”

[Mediaite]

Russian oligarch met with Michael Cohen at Trump Tower during transition

A Russian oligarch who was questioned by special counsel Robert Mueller and recently sanctioned by the US visited President Donald Trump’s personal attorney Michael Cohen in Trump Tower during the presidential transition in January 2017, according to video reviewed by CNN and a person familiar with the matter.

The January 9, 2017, Trump Tower appearance by Viktor Vekselberg, which was also reported Friday by The New York Times, adds to the questions swirling over the payments to Cohen, which Mueller’s team questioned Vekselberg about after the FBI stopped his private jet at a New York-area airport earlier this year.

Vekselberg, chairman of Russian asset manager Renova Group, was accompanied at Trump Tower by Andrew Intrater, who is Vekselberg’s cousin and head of Columbus Nova. Vekselberg is Columbus Nova’s biggest client.

A person familiar with the meeting told CNN that Vekselberg and Intrater met with Cohen and discussed improving US-Russia relations. The meeting was brief, the person said, and Vekselberg was not originally expected to attend.

An attorney for Cohen did not respond immediately to a request for comment. A representative for Vekselberg also did not respond immediately to a request for comment.
Intrater’s firm, Columbus Nova, paid $580,000 to Cohen for a consulting contract starting in January 2017.

Since the payments have become public, Columbus Nova has attempted to distance itself from Vekselberg, denying Vekselberg used Columbus Nova as a conduit to pay Cohen. Columbus Nova recently removed references to Renova Group from the biography of its partners. It has stated it’s a “management company solely owned and controlled by Americans,” and that it hired Cohen after Trump’s inauguration.

But the newly discovered video indicates that Vekselberg and Intrater were meeting with Cohen before that, and they were just steps away from the President-elect during the transition.

Vekselberg was questioned by FBI agents working with Mueller earlier this year about the Columbus Nova payments to Cohen, as well as more than $300,000 in donations made by Intrater to Trump’s inauguration and the Republican National Committee, sources said.

Intrater was also questioned, the sources said. Intrater’s lawyer, Richard Owens, said, “Columbus Nova has cooperated with all requests for documents and information from federal authorities.”

The questions asked of Vekselberg suggest that Mueller’s team has been examining some of Cohen’s business relationships as part of the investigation into Russian meddling in the 2016 presidential election.

Cohen’s home and office were raided last month as part of a criminal investigation by federal prosecutors in Manhattan. In court documents, the prosecutors said at least part of their inquiry stemmed from a referral from Mueller’s office.

The US Treasury Department placed Renova Group and Vekselberg on the list of sanctioned individuals and entities last month, for activities including election interference. The sanctions prohibit Vekselberg from traveling to the US.

[CNN]

Reality

Many members of the Trump administration had worked for Vekselberg.

Makan Delrahim and David Bernhardt were registered lobbyists for Access Industries, which has direct ties to Vekselberg.

And Wilbur Ross, who served as vice-chairman of the Bank of Cyprus, where Vekselberg and many other friends of Putin “invested” (laundered) their money.

Trump Jr. Met With Foreign Group Offering to Help Trump Win Election

Donald Trump Jr. met with an Israeli social media expert who pitched a multimillion dollar campaign to help his father win the 2016 presidential election just months before the vote, The New York Times reports. Blackwater founder Erik Prince reportedly arranged the August 2016 meeting, which was also attended by George Nader, an adviser to the United Arab Emirates who is cooperating with special counsel Robert Mueller’s team in the Russia probe. Nader is said to have informed Trump Jr. that the crown princes in Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates wanted to offer as much support as they could to help the older Trump win.

The social media expert, Joel Zamel, reportedly attended the meeting at Trump Tower on behalf of a company that specializes in online manipulation and had already drawn up a massive campaign to elect Trump that involved using thousands of fake social media accounts. The company, Psy-Group, whose motto is “Shape Reality,” reportedly went so far as to consult an American law firm about the legality of its proposal. The meeting has come under scrutiny by special counsel Robert Mueller’s team, with investigators now trying to determine whether these offers were connected to Russia in any way.

[The Daily Beast]

Michael Cohen Took Cash From Russian Oligarch After Election

The Daily Beast can confirm that Donald Trump’s personal lawyer Michael Cohen received hundreds of thousands of dollars from a company controlled by Putin-aligned Russian oligarch Viktor Vekselberg.

The allegations were initially made Tuesday by Michael Avenatti, porn actress Stormy Daniels’ lawyer, and confirmed by a source familiar with the matter.

“How the fuck did Avenatti find out?” the source asked The Daily Beast.

According to a dossier published by Avenatti on Tuesday evening, “Vekselberg and his cousin Mr. Andrew Intrater routed eight payments to Mr. Cohen through a company named Columbus Nova LLC beginning in January 2017 and continuing until at least August 2017.”

The funds, Avenatti suggested, may have been used to reimburse Cohen for the $130,000 hush payment made to Daniels in exchange for her silence about an alleged affair with Trump.

Intrater was also a donor to the Republican National Committee, where Cohen served as a deputy finance chairman. In June 2017, Intrater donated $35,000 to a joint fundraising committee for the RNC and Trump’s reelection campaign. He also gave a quarter-million dollars to Trump’s inaugural committee. (Previously, Intrater gave only to Democrats like Gov. Bill Richardson and Sen. Ted Kennedy.)

Intrater and Vekselberg have also been active investors in the U.S. technology and media sectors. Columbus Nova Technology Partners was the first and only outside investor in Gawker Media, before the company was felled by a lawsuit funded by Trump ally Peter Thiel. Columbus Nova also backed the record label of former Def Jam boss Lyor Cohen, invested in the streaming music pioneer Rhapsody, and put moneybehind a gig-economy site, a “genetic risk” firm, and a company called Tomfoolery Incorporated.

Vekselberg himself has holdings all over the world—including a 26.2 percent stake in Rusal, the aluminum producing giant owned by Oleg Deripaska, the Russian oligarch now infamous for bankrolling former Trump campaign boss Paul Manafort. Both Deripaska and Vekselberg were sanctioned by the U.S. government in early April. But later that month, the U.S. Treasury Department, in effect, slow-rolled the sanctions, giving companies and individuals until late October to get out of business with Rusal, which is appealing Washington’s ruling. “Given the impact on our partners and allies, we are… extending the maintenance and wind-down period while we consider RUSAL’s petition,” Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin said in a statement.

And according to The New York Times, Vekselberg was recently questioned by federal agents working with special counsel Robert Mueller. CNN reported that those queries involved the oligarch’s payments to Cohen.

While Cohen’s lawyers refused to comment on the payments, Trump lawyer Rudy Giuliani dismissed the news as Avenatti having foresaw the president’s Tuesday withdrawal from the Iran nuclear deal—part of “one of the best days of the Trump presidency”—and simply trying to “stink it up as much as possible.”

In a statement provided to The Daily Beast, Columbus Nova’s attorney, Richard Owens of Latham & Watkins, said: “Columbus Nova is a management company solely owned and controlled by Americans. After the inauguration, the firm hired Michael Cohen as a business consultant regarding potential sources of capital and potential investments in real estate and other ventures. Reports today that Viktor Vekselberg used Columbus Nova as a conduit for payments to Michael Cohen are false. The claim that Viktor Vekselberg was involved or provided any funding for Columbus Nova’s engagement of Michael Cohen is patently untrue. Neither Viktor Vekselberg nor anyone else other than Columbus Nova’s owners, were involved in the decision to hire Cohen or provided funding for his engagement.”

Cohen and Trump’s lawyers did not immediately respond to requests for comment. But this development could put further pressure on President Donald Trump’s inner circle. If Avenatti’s analysis is correct and the payments violated federal banking law, then the Cohen could be in serious legal jeopardy. There are reportedly concerns in the president’s inner circle that Cohen could begin cooperating with investigators. The greater the legal jeopardy he faces, the greater pressure he will face to cooperate. And he wouldn’t be the only one; former national security adviser Michael Flynn and Trump campaign official Rick Gates are already cooperating with Mueller’s investigators.

Meanwhile, Avenatti is making a sport of riding Cohen in the press.

[The Daily Beast]

Trump claims vindication after release of Comey memos

President Trump late Thursday night trumpeted the release of a series of memos written by former FBI Director James Comey, claiming they exonerated him of allegations that he obstructed justice and colluded with Russia.

“James Comey Memos just out and show clearly that there was NO COLLUSION and NO OBSTRUCTION,” Trump tweeted. “Also, he leaked classified information. WOW! Will the Witch Hunt continue?”

Comey’s memos have become a flashpoint in an increasingly bitter partisan fight on Capitol Hill tied to whether Trump tried to obstruct justice in the ongoing probe into possible ties between his campaign and Russia.

The Department of Justice (DOJ) was forced to hand over the memos to Congress on Thursday or face a subpoena from House Judiciary Chairman Bob Goodlatte (R-Va.). He and other Republicans, including Oversight and Government Reform Committee Chairman Trey Gowdy (R-S.C.) and Intelligence Committee Chairman Devin Nunes (R-Calif.), have been investigating alleged anti-Trump bias at the DOJ in the lead-up to the 2016 presidential election.

Following the release of the memos, which mostly contained details already known to the public thanks to Comey’s testimony on Capitol Hill and leaked excerpts from his autobiography, the three Republicans released a statement saying the memos provided clear evidence there was no obstruction of justice.

Rep. Elijah Cummings (Md.), the top Democrat on the House Oversight Committee, meanwhile, claimed they “provide strong corroborating evidence of everything [Comey] said about President Trump” and show a “blatant effort to deny justice.”

In his tweet, Trump was also apparently referring to the fact that Comey had provided one unclassified memo to a friend who then gave it to The New York Times. Comey did so in order to trigger the appointment of a special counsel in the Russia probe.

Trump has repeatedly railed against the probe, frequently referring to it as a “witch hunt.” He has also stepped up his attacks on Comey in recent days, as the ex-FBI director mounts a media blitz in order to promote his new book.

[The Hill]

Trump just blocked his own administration’s Russia sanctions

It appears that President Trump just blocked his own administration’s plan to sanction Russia.

Nikki Haley, the US ambassador to the UN, announced Sunday that the Trump administration was going to hit Russia with new sanctions on Monday over its support for Syrian President Bashar al-Assad’s chemical weapons program in the wake of the April 7 chemical attack in Douma, Syria, that killed dozens of people. The sanctions were explicitly focused on Russian companies that deal in equipment linked to Assad’s chemical weapons program.

But just a day later, the White House backtracked, with press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders saying that the administration was merely “considering additional sanctions on Russia” and that “a decision will be made in the near future.”

So why the awkward reversal? Apparently President Trump wasn’t on board with sanctioning Russia.

According to the Washington Post, after Haley announced the sanctions on CBS’s Face the Nation Sunday morning, Trump told national security advisers he was “upset the sanctions were being officially rolled out because he was not yet comfortable executing them.”

It unclear whether Haley just mistakenly announced the sanctions prematurely before the president had officially signed off on them, or if something else entirely went wrong.

But two things are obvious: The administration is once again botching the rollout of a fairly straightforward policy, and Trump is personally taking steps to ensure that he doesn’t anger Russian President Vladimir Putin.

A Russian foreign ministry official said on Monday that the Trump administration contacted the Russian embassy on Sunday and told them that the sanctions that Haley had mentioned were not actually coming.

[VOX]

Trump Aide Rick Gates Communicated With Former Russian Spy During the Campaign

A campaign aide to Donald Trump directly communicated a month before the 2016 presidential election with a man he knew was a onetime Russian spy, according to a court filing by Special Counsel Robert Mueller.

Rick Gates, the former aide, told an attorney for a U.S. law firm that a Russian they worked with in Ukraine was a former military intelligence officer, according to the filing late Tuesday in Washington.

Both Gates and the lawyer, Alexander van der Zwaan, have pleaded guilty and are cooperating with Mueller in his investigation of Russian meddling in the election. Gates worked for Paul Manafort, the indicted former Trump campaign chairman, as a political consultant in Ukraine for a decade.

The filing identifies the ex-spy only as Person A. The description of him by prosecutors, a person living in Moscow and Kiev who worked with Manafort and Gates in Ukraine, matches that of Konstantin Kilimnik. After van der Zwaan pleaded guilty to false statements on Feb. 20, Kilimnik declined to comment on whether he was Person A.

Van der Zwaan is scheduled to be sentenced on April 3 and faces as many as six months in prison under a plea agreement with Mueller’s office. In a sentencing memorandum, prosecutors urged the judge to consider a jail term for him. Lawyers for van der Zwaan said he should not be sentenced to jail.

The case is U.S. v. van der Zwaan, 18-cr-00031, U.S. District Court, District of Columbia (Washington).

[Bloomberg]