Donald Trump Tweets: No “Smocking” Gun Tying His Campaign To Russia

Monday morning and President Donald Trump is tweeting – this time cribbing from Fox News’ morning talk about Democrats’ inability to find a “smocking gun.”

“Democrats can’t find a Smocking Gun tying the Trump campaign to Russia after James Comey’s testimony,” Trump tweeted, in re GOP-ers in House Judiciary Committee having hauled Comey back in for a day’s worth of grilling, mostly about Hillary Clinton’s emails according to Comey, talking to reporters at end of Friday. Transcript to come.

“No Smocking Gun…No Collusion,” Trump boasted in his early morning tweeting.

“That’s because there was NO COLLUSION. So now the Dems go to a simple private transaction, wrongly calling it a campaign contribution…which it was not (but even if it was, it is only a CIVIL CASE, like Obama’s – but it was done correctly by a lawyer and there would not even be a fine. Lawyer’s liability if he made a mistake, not me).

[Deadline]

Reality

A brief moment on Monday’s Fox and Friends First was the catalyst for an early-morning tweet from President Trump.

This is an amazing admission of guilt, and an amazing misspelling of “smoking” twice, but let’s also walk through the lies in this tweet.

First, James Comey testified in a closed door session a few days prior on the demands of House Republicans, who pulled him in to ask questions about Hillary Clinton and her use of a private email server. An obvious ploy to change the national conversation away from Trump by Republicans… not Democrats.

And second, a lawyer for the Department of Justice accompanied Comey to the hearing and any time a Republican Congressman asked him questions prying into the Robert Mueller probe, the lawyer instructed Comey he couldn’t comment about an ongoing investigation.

So Republicans and Fox News framed this very basic understanding of our justice system to their their viewers as “James Comey refused to answer questions.”

 

Trump Declares ‘NO COLLUSION!’ in Early-Morning Tweet After Cohen, Manafort Memos Drop

After dubiously claiming the Michael Cohen sentencing memo “totally clears” him last night, President Donald Trump this morning sent out a mostly all-caps “NO COLLUSION” tweet.

[Mediaite]

Trump Organization planned to give $50 million penthouse to Putin amid Moscow deal

The Trump Organization planned to offer a $50 million penthouse suite to Russian President Vladimir Putin amid negotiations over a real estate deal to build a Trump Tower in Moscow, according to a report by BuzzFeed News. 

The bombshell report includes Felix Sater, a longtime Donald Trump associate accused of having Russian mafia ties, telling BuzzFeed News that he and Michael Cohen, the president’s former attorney and fixer, thought giving the suite to Putin could help sell other apartments.

“In Russia, the oligarchs would bend over backwards to live in the same building as Vladimir Putin,” Sater told BuzzFeed News. “My idea was to give a $50 million penthouse to Putin and charge $250 million more for the rest of the units. All the oligarchs would line up to live in the same building as Putin.”

BuzzFeed notes other unnamed officials confirmed the existence of the plan and the officials said Cohen discussed the idea with a representative of Dmitry Peskov, Putin’s press secretary.

It’s unclear whether Trump was aware of the plan, which never came to fruition due to the Trump Tower deal in Russia falling through.

Sater, a Russian immigrant who spent a year in prison for a 1991 stabbing, told the news organization that Cohen, at the time, remarked that it was a “great idea.”

Cohen’s attorney, Lanny Davis, declined to comment on the report when reached by USA TODAY. Rudy Giuliani, a lawyer for President Trump, said the story was “unknown to the president.”

Giuliani added the project was “too premature for anything like that” and called the idea to give Putin a suite “crazy.”

The revelations come at a time where the president’s Trump Tower deal in Moscow has come under intense scrutiny by special counsel Robert Mueller, who is examining Russian interference in the 2016 election.

On Thursday, Cohen pleaded guilty in federal court in New York to lying to Congress about the plan to build a Trump Tower in Russia all in the hope of shielding Trump from criticism.

Court documents filed as part of Cohen’s plea deal detailed Trump’s business dealings in Russia lasted longer during his campaign than previously acknowledged.

Federal prosecutors said Cohen lied when he submitted an Aug. 28, 2017, letter to the Senate and House intelligence committees. The letter said the project had ended by January 2016, when planning continued months longer during the presidential campaign.

Prosecutors said that Cohen lied to the committees to “minimize links between the Moscow Project and (Trump) and give the false impression that the Moscow Project ended before the Iowa caucus and the very first primary in hopes of limiting the ongoing Russia investigations.”

Sater, who had a large role in developing the Trump SoHo Hotel in New York, is also under scrutiny in Mueller’s investigation.

He wrote an email to Cohen in 2015 bragging about his ties to Putin, according to the New York Times. “Our boy can be president of the USA and we can engineer it,” Sater wrote in one of the emails. “I will get all of Putin’s team to buy in on this.”

The Times noted that Cohen never replied to the emails and viewed them as “puffery.” Sater, who spent a year in prison for stabbing a man and later scouted for Trump investments in Russia, said he was simply expressing “enthusiasm” for the Trump Organization.

[USA Today]

Trump suggests, without evidence, that Mueller is encouraging witnesses to lie in Russia probe

Donald Trump suggested without evidence on Wednesday that special counsel Robert Mueller and his team are bullying witnesses into lying about collusion in order to be spared punishment, marking the president’s latest attempt to discredit the Russia probe.

The president on Wednesday complained in a tweet that “While the disgusting Fake News is doing everything within their power not to report it that way, at least 3 major players are intimating that the Angry Mueller Gang of Dems is viciously telling witnesses to lie about facts & they will get relief.”

Though Trump did not specify to whom he was referring, Jerome Corsi, an associate of longtime Trump adviser Roger Stone, has been in the news in recent days for his refusal to agree to a plea deal with Mueller’s investigators.

Mueller’s team has investigated Corsi, who is known for his right-wing birther conspiracies, for possibly acting as a conduit between Stone and WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange. In a late-in-the-campaign bombshell, Assange published the emails of Clinton campaign chairman John Podesta that were determined to be stolen by Russian hackers.

Corsi said the special counsel’s team sought to strike a deal on one count of perjury, but Corsi has insisted that he hasn’t lied to investigators and suggested that Mueller’s prosecutors were attempting to coerce him into a plea deal.

Another major player in the Russia investigation, former Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort, saw his plea deal put in danger this week after Mueller’s team accused him of lying to investigators. Manafort had entered into the deal and agreed to become a government witness following his first trial, but his subsequent lack of cooperation with investigators has renewed murmurs of a possible pardon from Trump.

There is no hard evidence that Trump’s claims are accurate and he neglected to provide proof of his accusations. But he invoked in his tweet the time period when Americans were falsely accused and investigated without evidence of being communists, calling this moment “our Joseph McCarthy Era!”

[Politico]

Trump: Saudi Journalist Could Have Been Murdered By ‘Rogue Killers’

President Donald Trump spoke out on Monday about his call with the Saudi King to discuss allegations his government killed and dismembered Washington Post writer and dissident Jamal Khashoggi.

Speaking to reporters on the White House lawn Monday, Trump repeatedly noted Saudi Arabia’s denial of alleged killing was “very strong,” even adding that Khashoggi could have been murdered by “rogue killers.”

“I just spoke with the King of Saudi Arabia, who denies any knowledge with what took place,” Trump said. “And he firmly denies that.”

Trump added that he has sent Secretary of State Mike Pompeo to meet with Saudi King Salman.

“The king firmly denied any knowledge of it, he didn’t really know, maybe, I don’t want to get into his mind, but it sounded to me like maybe these could have been rogue killers,” Trump said. “Who knows, we’re going to try getting to the bottom of it very soon, but his was a flat denial.”

“He told me in a very firm way that they had no knowledge of it,” Trump continued. “He said it very strongly.”

“His denial to me could not have been stronger,” Trump added.

Turkish officials say they have proof that Khashoggi — missing since he entered the Saudi consulate on October 2 — was murdered by a team of Saudi agents. Trump has repeatedly stressed that the Saudis vehemently deny their involvement in his disappearance. In a tweet on Monday morning, he emphasized that U.S. resident Khashoggi is a “Saudi citizen,” and that King Salman “denies any knowledge of whatever may have happened.”

The disappearance and possible murder of Khashoggi poses a problem for Trump administration attempts to build a closer relationship with Saudi Arabia, notably through Jared Kushner‘s relationship with young Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman.

[Mediaite]

Reality

Trump & Saudi Business:
•1991: Sold yacht to Saudi Prince
•2001: Sold 45th floor of Trump World Tower to Saudis
•Jun 2015: I love the Saudis…many in Trump Tower
•Aug 2015: “They buy apartments from me…Spend $40M-$50M”
•2017: Saudi lobbyists spent $270K at Trump DC hotel

Trump says Trump Tower meeting meant to obtain information on Clinton

President Trump tweeted Sunday morning about the now-infamous June 9, 2016 meeting at Trump Tower between Russians and Trump campaign officials, including his son, Donald Trump Jr.

“Fake News reporting, a complete fabrication, that I am concerned about the meeting my wonderful son, Donald, had in Trump Tower. This was a meeting to get information on an opponent, totally legal and done all the time in politics – and it went nowhere. I did not know about it!”

Why it matters: Trump and his son have repeatedly changed their stance on the purpose of the 2016 meeting. In a statement to The New York Times last July, which investigators now know was dictated by President Trump, Don Jr. said the meeting was primarily about Russian adoptions. Trump’s former lawyer Michael Cohen has also claimedthat the president approved the meeting ahead of time, contradicting continued denials by Trump and his legal team.

[Axios]

Trump sides with Russia against FBI at Helsinki summit

After face-to-face talks with Russian President Vladimir Putin, Mr Trump contradicted US intelligence agencies and said there had been no reason for Russia to meddle in the vote.

Mr Putin reiterated that Russia had never interfered in US affairs.

The two men held nearly two hours of closed-door talks in the Finnish capital Helsinki on Monday.

At a news conference after the summit, President Trump was asked if he believed his own intelligence agencies or the Russian president when it came to the allegations of meddling in the elections.

“President Putin says it’s not Russia. I don’t see any reason why it should be,” he replied.

US intelligence agencies concluded in 2016 that Russia was behind an effort to tip the scale of the US election against Hillary Clinton, with a state-authorised campaign of cyber attacks and fake news stories planted on social media.

Senior Republican Senator Lindsey Graham, a member of the Senate Armed Services Committee, said Mr Trump had sent the Kremlin a message of US “weakness”.

He tweeted: “Missed opportunity by President Trump to firmly hold Russia accountable for 2016 meddling and deliver a strong warning regarding future elections.”

Fellow Republican Senator Jeff Flake – a staunch critic of President Trump – called his words “shameful”.

Some US politicians had called for the summit to be cancelled after 12 Russian military intelligence agents were indicted last week by US special counsel Robert Mueller, accused of hacking the presidential campaign of Democratic candidate Hillary Clinton.

Speaking on Monday, President Putin offered to allow US investigators to visit Russia to question the officers.

He made it clear that, in return, Russia would want similar access to people in the US it suspects of criminal activity.

President Trump said Mr Putin had been “extremely strong and powerful in his denial” of any election meddling.

[BBC]

Emails reveal alarm when Trump’s golf course gripes leaked

Days after Donald Trump was elected in 2016, a group of four British political figures met with him in Trump Tower in New York. They posted photos of themselves there beaming before a big golden door and, when they returned to Britain, one of them couldn’t help bragging to the BBC about the meeting in which they had discussed Trump’s dislike for windmills that could ruin the views from one of his Scottish golf courses.

Arron Banks, who donated an amount equivalent to more than $10 million to the Brexit cause, and his spokesman Andy Wigmore were among the first people to meet Trump after his election in November 2016 alongside Breitbart UK editor Raheem Kassam and Nigel Farage, the former chairman of the UK Independence Party (UKIP).

“He doesn’t like wind farms at all,” Wigmore told the BBC weeks after the meeting. “He says, ‘When I look out of my window and I see these wind mills it offends me.'” Wigmore added that the President-elect had asked him and his British counterparts at the meeting to campaign “about getting rid of wind farms in the way they currently stand.” He told a British newspaperthat Trump “kept returning” to the “issue of wind farms.”

British political operatives met with Russian ambassador days after Trump visit
The revelations led to further scrutiny of the President-elect’s potential business conflicts, and according to the emails, stoked Trump’s anger.

Wigmore’s comments, delivered with a smile, touched off a distressed email exchange, according to emails viewed by CNN. Some of Wigmore’s and Banks’ emails have recently been provided to congressional and parliamentary investigators looking into Russian interference in the United Kingdom and the US. CNN reported last month that Wigmore and Banks were also in regular contact with the Russian ambassador in London at the time.

In the emails, Kassam urged Wigmore to walk back his comments.

“WHY DID YOU GIVE THOSE QUOTES. This was a PRIVATE MEETING AND YOU HAVE F***** ALL OF US NOW,” Kassam emailed Wigmore.

Appearing to suggest over email they obfuscate the truth, Kassam wrote that Wigmore should issue a “full retraction immediately,” and claim the conversation with Trump about the windmills “never happened.”

UK investigates alleged Russian links to Brexit campaign
Kassam added, “We are going to have to distance ourselves from this. That conversation never took place and I’m afraid you have misremembered as a result of your overexcitement.”

A few weeks after their post-election Trump Tower meeting, Trump met with Farage at a party, according to an email sent by Banks to Wigmore and a colleague.

Banks wrote of Trump, “Apparently he’s still annoyed about the wind farm story (naughty boy andy) but I guess there’s not much we can do about that.”

For years before his election, Trump had publicly opposed the proposed Scottish wind farm that could be seen from a golf course he owns on Scotland’s east coast, even writing to a top Scottish official about the issue. Trump’s comments to the group, Wigmore suggested, were in part about that wind farm. Trump is expected to visit Turnberry, another golf course he owns on Scotland’s west coast, this week while he is in Europe for meetings with NATO and Russian President Vladimir Putin.

Wind farms blowback

Wigmore’s November 2016 account of Trump’s disdain for wind farms, particularly those near his Scottish golf course, prompted a flurry of news reporting in the United States and drew further scrutiny about the President-elect’s potential conflicts of interest arising from his businesses.

When The New York Times asked Trump transition team spokeswoman Hope Hicks about the conversation in 2016, she said that the people involved denied that Trump had brought up the subject of wind farms.

But when the Times pointed out to Hicks Wigmore’s comments, she stopped responding.

At a later point in November 2016, Trump told the Times he “might have” brought up the topic of wind farms during the meeting.

The White House did not return CNN’s requests for comment about the newly revealed emails.

One of the emails from Kassam to Wigmore read, “You have to retract this in its entirety. What you have done is just activated the entire environmentalist lobby against the President‐elect. Your name is mud in the transition team right now and you need to issue a full retraction immediately. That you made that information up because you wanted to fill space in an interview and that you’re very sorry about it and that it never happened.”

How Europe’s populists are following the Steve Bannon playbook
Kassam told CNN, “The reason I got so mad at Andy (Wigmore) was because I think the President-elect literally mentioned wind farms once for a second, there was no sort of policy discussion about wind farms or anything like that.”

Kassam said he wasn’t asking Wigmore to lie about the meeting when he asked him to retract his comments, but did want his colleague to walk-back the suggestion that there was a detailed conversation about wind farms

“Andy isn’t exactly Mr. Attention-to-detail,” Kassam added.

Speaking to CNN, Wigmore acknowledged he was taken aback by Trump’s reaction to his comments but said he didn’t regret the indiscretion.

“Donald Trump is a man who speaks his mind,” Wigmore said. “No one expected him to win in 2016 just as no one expected people to vote for Brexit. But they did.”

Wigmore, Farage and Banks all played leading roles in Britain’s vote to leave the European Union in June 2016, and later went on to campaign for Trump, attending numerous rallies and debates across the United States in the lead up to the 2016 presidential election.

A Russia revelation

The emails obtained by CNN, of which the details of some were first reported by The Observer and The Sunday Times newspapers in London, show that a few days after the men’s post-election meeting at Trump Tower, Wigmore and Banks met the Russian ambassador in London.

CNN reported in June that, at the time of the 2016 meeting, Wigmore and Banks, were in regular contact with Alexander Yakovenko, the Russian ambassador in London, as part of what became a pattern of regular contact with the embassy.

There is no evidence that the Trump campaign knew about the men’s ties to the Russian government.

Kassam told CNN he didn’t know two of the other men were meeting with Russian government officials at the time.

Wigmore and Banks’ contact with the Russian ambassador in London while campaigning for Brexit, and later the Trump campaign, has been a source of intrigue in the United Kingdom.

The men appeared before a British parliamentary committee last month where they downplayed their connections to the Russian government.

In a radio interview last month, when it was suggested to Banks that people would ask if the men were “reporting back” to the Russians, he responded, “Well, not really.”

Wigmore said the only thing they provided the ambassador with was a phone number for the Trump transition team after the ambassador asked if they knew how to get in contact with Trump.

Wigmore claimed the ambassador said he didn’t know how to contact the incoming administration.

Kassam said that although he was unaware that Banks and Wigmore had connections with the Russian ambassador in London, it didn’t surprise him, as he described both men as socialites “running around Mayfair,” an affluent neighborhood in central London, who’d take a meeting with anyone.

[CNN]

Trump casts doubt on Russian election meddling ahead of Putin summit

President Donald Trump continues to cast doubt on US intelligence assessments that Russia meddled in the 2016 presidential contest, just as his aides announced details of his upcoming summit talks with President Vladimir Putin.

“Russia continues to say they had nothing to do with Meddling in our Election!” Trump wrote on Twitter Thursday morning. He went on to question why US law enforcement agencies weren’t investigating other perceived influences on the election, which he has repeatedly said was rigged for his opponent Hillary Clinton.

“Where is the DNC Server, and why didn’t Shady James Comey and the now disgraced FBI agents take and closely examine it? Why isn’t Hillary/Russia being looked at? So many questions, so much corruption!” he wrote.

The President’s tweet was sent roughly a half hour before the White House announced the two leaders will meet on July 16 in Helsinki, Finland, where they will “discuss relations between the United States and Russia and a range of national security issues.”

Trump’s summit with Putin is likely to draw criticism from the US President’s domestic critics, who accuse him of currying favor with Putin, and jitter US allies, who fear Trump will take a less hawkish position with Russia on issues like the annexation of Crimea and military exercises near the Russian border in eastern Europe.

The summit takes place four days after a NATO meeting in Brussels, where Trump will meet leaders of US military allies. NATO members were worried that if the summit with Putin had taken place earlier, Trump might have agreed to something with the Russian leader that they would have been forced to go along with.

[CNN]

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]

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