Trump administration holds off on new Russia sanctions, despite law

The Trump administration said on Monday it would not immediately impose additional sanctions on Russia, despite a new law designed to punish Moscow’s alleged meddling in the 2016 U.S. election, insisting the measure was already hitting Russian companies.

“Today, we have informed Congress that this legislation and its implementation are deterring Russian defense sales,” State Department spokeswoman Heather Nauert said in a statement. “Since the enactment of the … legislation, we estimate that foreign governments have abandoned planned or announced purchases of several billion dollars in Russian defense acquisitions.”

Seeking to press President Donald Trump to clamp down on Russia, the U.S. Congress voted nearly unanimously last year to pass a law setting sweeping new sanctions on Moscow.

Trump, who wanted warmer ties with Moscow and had opposed the legislation as it worked its way through Congress, signed it reluctantly in August, just six months into his presidency.

Under the measure, the administration faced a deadline on Monday to impose sanctions on anyone determined to conduct significant business with Russian defense and intelligence sectors, already sanctioned for their alleged role in the election.

But citing long time frames associated with major defense deals, Nauert said it was better to wait to impose those sanctions.

“From that perspective, if the law is working, sanctions on specific entities or individuals will not need to be imposed because the legislation is, in fact, serving as a deterrent,” she said in a statement.

The measure, known as the “Countering America’s Adversaries Through Sanctions Act,” or CAATSA, required the administration to list “oligarchs” close to President Vladimir Putin’s government and issue a report detailing possible consequences of penalizing Russia’s sovereign debt.

[Reuters]

Trump says he trusts Putin’s denials of election meddling

U.S. President Donald Trump said he believed President Vladimir Putin when he denied accusations Russia meddled in last year’s U.S. election despite U.S. intelligence agencies’ conclusion of Russian interference.

Trump made the comment after he and Putin met briefly at a summit in Vietnam on Saturday and agreed on a statement supporting a political solution for Syria.

It was their first encounter since July and came during a low in U.S.-Russia relations and at a time Trump is haunted by an investigation into accusations that Putin influenced the election that brought him to the White House.

Putin reiterated the denials of interference, Trump said.

“Every time he sees me he says I didn’t do that, and I really believe that when he tells me that, he means it,” Trump told reporters aboard Air Force One after leaving the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) summit in the resort of Danang.

“I think he is very insulted by it, which is not a good thing for our country,” Trump said.

Trump, who has called allegations of campaign collusion with Moscow a hoax, has faced questions from Democrats about the matter since he took office. A special counsel, Robert Mueller, is conducting a probe that has led to charges against Trump’s former campaign manager Paul Manafort and his associate Rick Gates.

U.S. intelligence agencies have also concluded Russians interfered to tip the election in Trump’s favor through hacking and releasing emails to embarrass Democratic candidate Hillary Clinton and spreading social media propaganda.

Russia has repeatedly denied meddling.

The top Democrat on the U.S. House of Representatives intelligence committee, which is investigating the issue, harshly criticized Trump’s comments and accused him of siding with Putin over U.S. intelligence agencies.

“The President fools no one. He understands that the Russians intervened through the hacking and dumping of his opponent’s emails, the fruits of which he exploited time and again on the campaign trail,” Adam Schiff said in a statement.

“He understands all this and more. He just doesn’t understand how to put country over self. Or to put it in terms he is more familiar with – Mr. Trump simply can’t bring himself to put America first,” the Democrat said.

[Reuters]

Lawmakers want immediate review of travel restriction on Putin critic

The United States government has revoked travel privileges for a fierce critic of Russian President Vladimir Putin, stirring alarm on Capitol Hill.

Bill Browder, a crusader for the Magnitsky Act designed to punish Russian human rights abusers, found himself blocked from traveling to the United States in recent days.

The situation appears to be triggered by Russia’s decision to place Browder on the Interpol wanted list in pursuit of his arrest.

“The Department of Homeland Security should expedite an immediate review of the decision to revoke Mr. Browder’s visa,” Sens. John McCain (R-Ariz.) and Ben Cardin (D-Md.) said in a statement on Monday.

The senators said it “would be unfortunate if the U.S. decided to bar him based on a decision by those same Russian officials who have been targeted by this important legislation.”

Browder, a British citizen, told The Hill in an interview Monday that he was notified late last week that the Department of Homeland Security had revoked his status as a member of the Global Entry program, which is administered by Customs and Border Protection and allows trusted travelers expedited entry into the country.

When Browder tried to book a flight to the United States, he further discovered that his privileges to enter the U.S. ad a citizen of Great Britain had been revoked. Browder uses the Electronic System for Travel Authorization to gain entry into the U.S. under the Visa Waiver Program.

“I discovered that my Global Entry status had been revoked,” Browder said. “We then checked into a flight to Newark and the airline wouldn’t let me check in, wouldn’t let me board because of the visa issue.”

“At that point, I then contact my contacts in law enforcement and it was confirmed to me that Russia had added me using the Interpol diffusion system on the 17th of October,” Browder added.

Browder is a British financier who has been a major driving force behind the Magnitsky Act, a bipartisan law was passed in 2012 to punish human rights abusers in Russia. The law is named for Sergei Magnitsky, a Russian lawyer, who was jailed after discovering a tax fraud scheme and who died under suspicious circumstances. Browder was one of Magnitsky’s clients.

Browder’s support for the law has made him an enemy of Moscow. Russia has on four previous occasions petitioned to get Interpol to secure Browder’s arrest, though the international police organization has rejected the requests, deeming them politically motivated.

In the past, Browder’s visa privileges were revoked as a result of Russia’s actions, but he said the U.S. government previously had resolved the issue within hours.

“I am hopeful that this is just a technical issue driven by Interpol and it will be resolved quickly,” Browder said Monday.

The Department of Homeland Security did not respond to a request for more information. Browder said he received little information from Homeland Security when he inquired about his Global Entry status in recent days.

[The Hill]

Update

After the firestorm, Browder has been cleared again to enter the US.

Trump Thanks Putin for Expelling U.S. Diplomats to Dismay of State Department

President Donald Trump on Thursday thanked Russian President Vladimir Putin for expelling American diplomats from Russia on the grounds that “we’re going to save a lot of money,” prompting dismay among some of the rank-and-file at the State Department.

“I want to thank him because we’re trying to cut down our payroll, and as far as I’m concerned I’m very thankful that he let go of a large number of people because now we have a smaller payroll,” Trump told reporters at his golf club in Bedminster, New Jersey, according to a pool report.

“There’s no real reason for them to go back,” he added. “I greatly appreciate the fact that we’ve been able to cut our payroll of the United States. We’re going to save a lot of money.”

Russia recently announced that it would expel hundreds of American diplomats from Russia in retaliation for new sanctions the U.S. put on the Kremlin. Those sanctions are in response to Russia’s suspected attempts to meddle in last year’s U.S. presidential election through a disinformation campaign and cyberattacks on Democratic Party officials.

Trump, whose campaign’s relationship with Russia is the subject of an ongoing federal investigation, had pushed back against the sanctions bill, but signed it into law after it passed Congress with veto-proof majorities in both chambers.

The State Department has not yet released the details of how it will handle the drawdown. But many, if not most, of the positions cut will likely be those of locally hired Russian staffers, though the local staff who are let go will likely get severance payments. Cost savings are possible in the long run.

The U.S. diplomats forced to leave Moscow will in most cases be sent to other posts, sources said.

Trump’s remarks did not go down well among the rank-and-file at the State Department, some of whom noted that the people who would be most affected are locally hired staff crucial to American diplomats’ work overseas.

A senior U.S. diplomat serving overseas called Trump’s remarks “outrageous” and said it could lead more State Department staffers to head for the exits.

“This is so incredibly demoralizing and disrespectful to people serving their country in harm’s way,” the diplomat said.

“I kid you not, I have heard from three different people in the last five minutes,” one State Department official told POLITICO shortly after Trump’s comments. “Everyone seems pretty amazed. This statement is naive and shortsighted. It sends a terrible signal to local employees everywhere.”

“THANK Putin?” another bewildered State Department official responded. “I don’t have words that are printable to describe my reaction.”

The reaction to Trump’s comments on social media was equally as withering, with many suggesting he simply didn’t understand how the U.S. Foreign Service is structured and others shocked by his gesture to Putin.

Nicholas Burns, who served as undersecretary of state for political affairs during the second Bush administration, called Trump’s statement “shameful.”

“He justifies mistreatment of U.S. diplomats by Putin,” Burns wrote on Twitter.

Ever since Trump won the election, the State Department has felt sidelined by the president and his aides. Trump largely ignored U.S. diplomats who were ready and willing to offer him briefings when he talked to foreign leaders during the transition period. Since taking office, Trump has proposed cutting the State Department’s budget by a third, and his secretary of state, Rex Tillerson, is considered isolated and aloof from many of the diplomats he oversees.

[Politico]

Trump Signs Russia Sanctions Bill, Then Blasts Republicans

President Donald Trump signed into law Wednesday morning legislation that levies new sanctions against Russia and restricts Trump’s own ability to ease sanctions in place against Moscow.

The bill is one of the first major pieces of legislation that was sent to Trump’s desk, and it represents a rebuke of the President by giving Congress new veto power to block him from removing Russia sanctions.

The White House announced the signing shortly after 11 a.m. ET, saying the bill includes “a number of clearly unconstitutional provisions” that “purport to displace the President’s exclusive constitutional authority to recognize foreign governments, including their territorial bounds.”

In a separate statement, Trump said he believed the bill to be “seriously flawed” but signed it anyway.

“Still, the bill remains seriously flawed — particularly because it encroaches on the executive branch’s authority to negotiate,” he said in the statement. “Congress could not even negotiate a health care bill after seven years of talking. By limiting the executive’s flexibility, this bill makes it harder for the United States to strike good deals for the American people, and will drive China, Russia, and North Korea much closer together.”

He ended the statement by saying: “I built a truly great company worth many billions of dollars. That is a big part of the reason I was elected. As President, I can make far better deals with foreign countries than Congress.”

Even before Trump signed the bill, the measure prompted Russian President Vladimir Putin to retaliate against the US over the new sanctions, which Congress levied over Russian interference in the 2016 US election, as well as Russia’s annexation of Crimea and aggression in Syria.

In addition to the new US sanctions on Russia, former President Barack Obama seized two Russian compounds in New York and Maryland in December in response to the election meddling. Russia responded by ordering the US to cut staff at its diplomatic mission by 755 employees, as well as seizing two US diplomatic properties.

The new sanctions bill hits Russia’s energy and defense sectors, and also includes fresh sanctions against Iran and North Korea.

The measure was signed into law after it passed with overwhelming margins in both the House and Senate — which made the threat of a presidential veto a non-starter — but it was not an easy road to Trump’s desk.

After the Senate passed the sanctions on Iran and Russia 98-2, the bill languished in the House for more than a month amid a series of procedural fights. Then the House added North Korean sanctions before passing the measure 419-3, effectively forcing the Senate to swallow the new sanctions in order to get the legislation over the finish line before Congress left for its August congressional recess.

The House and Senate struck a deal to make some changes to the bill at the urging of a host of US industries and European countries, but Congress did not consider making the change that the White House wanted: removing the congressional review on Russia sanctions from the bill.

White House officials lobbied to weaken the section giving Congress a veto on the easing of sanctions, and Secretary of State Rex Tillerson warned Congress the administration should have “flexibility” to negotiate with Russia and improve relations.

But key Republican and Democratic lawmakers said that weakening congressional review was not on the table when they were finalizing the legislation.

Senate Foreign Relations Chairman Bob Corker, who initially was hesitant to pass a Russia sanctions bill before he was a key driver to get it done in July, said he has spoken to the President about the review process to try to ease the White House’s concerns.

Corker said that Congress would only veto an attempt to lessen sanctions on Russia if the administration took an “egregious” step to try to remove sanctions.

“I’ve walked the President through the process of how congressional review works,” Corker said. “The administration — knowing that unless it’s way out of bounds — likely they have the flexibility to do what they need to do.”

Corker noted that Trump has refused to believe his intelligence leaders that Russia interfered with the election, and said that may have helped push Congress to get the bill done quickly.

“I do think that the lack of strong statements in that regard probably effected the outcome,” he said.

[CNN]

Reality

In a pointed jab at lawmakers in his own party, he questioned Congress’s ability to negotiate sanctions based on its inability to approve the Republicans’ health-care legislation.

“The bill remains seriously flawed — particularly because it encroaches on the executive branch’s authority to negotiate,” Trump said. “Congress could not even negotiate a healthcare bill after seven years of talking.”

According to constitutional law experts, Congress rightfully asserted its own constitutional powers to serve as a check on the executive branch, even on matters of national security.

Trump Sides With Putin on Election Hacking, Repeating His Claims

Russian President Vladimir Putin told President Trump that Russian hackers wouldn’t have gotten caught if they did hack Democratic groups because they’re too skilled at spying, The New York Times reported Monday.

Trump has since repeated the claim, according to White House communications director Anthony Scaramucci.

Scaramucci told CNN’s “State of the Union” on Sunday that someone told him that if Moscow hacked the Democratic National Committee, “you would have never seen it. You would have never had any evidence of them, meaning that they’re super-confident in their deception skills and hacking.”

Pressed by host Jake Tapper on who told him that, Scaramucci said it was Trump himself.

The U.S. intelligence community concluded last year that Russia hacked the DNC and Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton‘s campaign chairman as part of an effort to help Trump win the presidential election.

The Justice Department, FBI and House and Senate Intelligence committees are investigating Russian interference as well as links between Trump’s team and the Kremlin, which Trump has denied.

“As the phony Russian Witch Hunt continues, two groups are laughing at this excuse for a lost election taking hold, Democrats and Russians!” Trump tweeted Sunday.

Trump met with Putin multiple times at the Group of 20 summit in Germany earlier this month, with each of the meetings lasting more than an hour.

The first was a planned, formal talk while the other was an informal meeting that was not immediately reported. The second meeting was not confirmed until last week, when it was announced that they talked for more than an hour at a dinner for heads of state.

[The Hill]

Vladimir Putin praises Trump as ‘straightforward’ and ‘frank’

Russian President Vladimir Putin praised President Trump on Thursday as a “straightforward” and “frank person” who looks at issues with a “fresh set of eyes.”

Speaking to foreign reporters at an economic forum in St. Petersburg, Putin denied that the Russian state had ever engaged in election hacking, but conceded it is theoretically possible some individual “patriotic” Russians could have mounted some cyberattacks.

He rejected charges by U.S. intelligence agencies that Russia hacked into Democratic Party emails, helping Trump’s election victory and railed against “Russo-phobic hysteria” that he said makes it “somewhat inconvenient to work with one another or even to talk.”

“It’s having an impact, and I’m afraid this is one of the goals of those who organize it are pursuing and they can fine-tune the public sentiments to their liking, trying to establish an atmosphere that is going to prevent us from addressing common issues, say with regard to terrorism,” Putin said.

He indicated, however, that Trump is an American leader he could work with.
Putin praised Trump as “a straightforward person, a frank person,” adding that some view Trump’s lack of political experience as a disadvantage, while the Russian leader considers it a plus.

“He can’t be put in the same category as normal politicians,” Putin said. “I see that as an advantage. He has a fresh set of eyes.’’

Putin noted that the two leaders have only talked by phone and it is difficult to form an opinion from a distance. They plan to meet for the first time at the G-20 summit in Hamburg in July.

“How can you be friends with someone you don’t know?’’ Putin said. “I don’t think he can call me a friend. We have never seen each other in person.’’

As for the strains between Russia and the West, Putin predicted “this will end, sooner or later,” adding that “we are patient, we know how to wait and we will wait.”

[USA Today]

 

Trump Officials Pressed State Dept Staffers for Plans to Lift Russia Sanctions

Trump administration officials pressed State Department staffers to develop plans for removing sanctions against Russia almost immediately after President Trump took office in January, Yahoo News reported Thursday.

In turn, according to Yahoo News, State Department employees sought to convince lawmakers to codify the sanctions, which were put in place by former President Barack Obama in response to Russia’s military intervention in Ukraine and the Kremlin’s efforts to interfere in the 2016 presidential election.

Former Coordinator of Sanctions Policy Dan Fried, who retired from the State Department in February, said that he received phone calls from concerned officials tasked with developing plans to lift the sanctions asking him to intervene and “stop this.”

“There was serious consideration by the White House to unilaterally rescind the sanctions,” Fried told Yahoo News, saying he eventually contacted lawmakers, including Senate Foreign Affairs Committee Ranking Member Ben Cardin (D-Md.), in an effort to codify the sanctions, which would complicate efforts by Trump to lift them.

Former Assistant Secretary of State for Democracy, Human Rights and Labor Tom Malinowski, who, at the time, had just left the State Department, also brought the issue up with members of Congress.

The revelation State Department officials had scrambled to prevent the Trump administration from doing away with Obama-era sanctions on Russia comes as the FBI and at least four congressional committees are investigating possible coordination between the Trump campaign and Russia.

It also follows reports last week that Trump’s son-in-law and senior adviser Jared Kushner had discussed setting up a backchannel line of communication between the Trump transition team and the Kremlin with the country’s Ambassador Sergey Kislyak.

Kushner is currently under FBI scrutiny for his meetings with Kislyak and Russian banking executive Sergey Gorkov in December. He did not disclose those meetings.

Also present at the meeting with Kislyak was former national security adviser Michael Flynn, who was forced to resign from the White House in February amid revelations that he had discussed sanctions with Kislyak in the month before Trump took office.

As a presidential candidate and since taking office, Trump has expressed a desire to improve U.S.-Russia relations, though he has repeatedly denied any collusion between his campaign and Moscow and has called the federal investigations into the matter a “witch hunt.”

[The Hill]

Jared Kushner Reportedly Tried to Set Up a Secret Trump-Russia Back Channel

Jared Kushner, President Donald Trump’s son-in-law and top White House adviser, was willing to go extraordinary lengths to establish a secret line of communication between the Trump administration and Russian government officials, The Washington Post reported on Friday.

During the presidential transition period leading up to Trump’s inauguration, Kushner held a series of meetings with the Russian ambassador to the US, Sergey Kislyak, and the head of a Moscow bank that was under US sanctions.

In talks with Kislyak in December, Kushner floated the possibility of setting up a secure line of communication between the Trump transition team and Russia — and having those talks take place in Russian diplomatic facilities in the US, essentially concealing their interactions from US government scrutiny, The Post wrote, citing US intelligence officials briefed on the matter.

Kislyak reportedly passed along that request to Moscow. The Post’s Ellen Nakashima, Adam Entous, and Greg Miller reported that the Russian ambassador was “taken aback” by Kushner’s request, because it posed significant risks for both the Trump team and the Kremlin.

Kushner, who did not disclose the meeting on his security clearance form, is now a subject in the FBI’s investigation of Russia’s election interference, and whether the Trump campaign colluded with Moscow to undermine Hillary Clinton.

He also had two previously undisclosed phone calls with Kislyak between April and November of last year, according to Reuters. Kushner’s attorney Jamie Gorelick responded to the Reuters story Friday evening via CNN, saying “Mr. Kushner participated in thousands of calls in this time period. He has no recollection of the calls as described. We have asked (Reuters) for the dates of such alleged calls so we may look into it and respond, but we have not received such information.”

“GOOD GRIEF. This is serious,” said Bob Deitz, a veteran of the NSA and the CIA who worked under the Clinton and Bush administrations.

“This raises a bunch of problematic issues. First, of course, is the Logan Act, which prohibits private individuals conducting negotiations on behalf of the US government with foreign governments,” Deitz said. “Second, it tends to reinforce the notion that Trump’s various actions about [fired FBI Director James] Comey do constitute obstruction.”

“In other words, there is now motive added to conduct,” Deitz noted. “This is a big problem for the President.”

Kushner did not previously disclose the December meetings to US officials during his background check, and the White House only acknowledged them after news outlets reported on it. It follows a pattern among key Trump advisers that unfolded during and after the 2016 election.

“If you are in a position of public trust, and you talk to, meet, or collude with a foreign power” while trying to subvert normal state channels, “you are, in the eyes of the FBI and CIA, a traitor,” said Glenn Carle, a former top counterterrorism official at the CIA. “That is what I spent my life getting foreigners to do with me, for the US government.”

Carle noted that, if the Kushner-Kislyak meeting and reported discussion were an isolated incident, then it could be spun as “normal back-channel communication arrangements among states.”

“If Jared Kushner was trying to set up a back channel with the Russians, doesn’t that mean he wasn’t colluding with them?” a White House official said in response to the story, according to CNN.

But Kislyak and the Trump campaign interacted extensively, and Trump associates either kept those interactions secret from US officials or misrepresented them, as was the case with Michael Flynn, who was forced to resign in February for similar reasons.

Reuters reported earlier this month that Flynn and Kislyak also spoke about setting up a secret back channel during the transition between Trump and Russian President Vladimir Putin “that could bypass the US national security bureaucracy.”

“We know about the multiple meetings of Trump entourage members with Russian intel-related individuals,” Carle said. “There will be many others that we do not know about.” He noted that while this reported back channel is “explosive,” it is worth questioning who planted the story — The Post reportedly received an anonymous letter in December tipping them off to the Kushner-Kislyak meeting.

Additionally, as a longtime diplomat, Kislyak would have known that his communications were being monitored. So the possibility remains, Carle said, that the Russians used the meeting with Kushner to distract the intelligence community and the public from potentially more incriminating relationships between the campaign and Moscow.

Indeed, Kushner also met with the CEO of Russia’s state-owned Vnesheconombank, Sergey Gorkov, in December 2016, The New York Times reported in late March. The meeting — which had not previously been disclosed and came on the heels of Kushner’s meeting with Kislyak at Trump Tower — caught the eye of the Senate Intelligence Committee, which is investigating Russia’s interference in the 2016 election and whether any members of Trump’s campaign were complicit.

Kislyak reportedly orchestrated the meeting between Kushner and Gorkov, who was appointed by Russian President Vladimir Putin in January 2016 as part of a restructuring of the bank’s management team, Bloomberg reported last year.

The Kremlin and the White House have provided conflicting explanations for why Kushner met with Gorkov.

Former CIA Director John Brennan, in testimony Tuesday before the House Intelligence Committee, said that he was concerned by some of the “interactions” between Russian officials and members of the Trump campaign that took place during the election last year.

Republican Rep. Tom Rooney asked Brennan if he ever found “any direct evidence of collusion between the Trump campaign and Putin in Moscow” while he was the CIA director.

Brennan replied that “there was intelligence that the Russian intelligence services were actively involved in this effort … to try to get individuals to act on their behalf either wittingly or unwittingly.” He added that he was “worried by the contacts that the Russians were having with US persons” and “had unresolved questions” by the time he left office about whether” the Russians had succeeded in getting Americans to do their bidding.

Pressed further, Brennan said that “the information and intelligence revealed contacts and interactions between Russian officials and US persons involved in the Trump campaign that I was concerned about because of known Russian efforts to suborn such individuals. It raised questions in my mind about whether the Russians were able to gain the cooperation of such individuals.”

[Business Insider]

Reality

According to the Washington Post, most analysts agree that it’s appropriate for presidents and their senior aides to use secret contacts to advance U.S. foreign policy goals. And it’s fairly routine for incoming administrations to have get-acquainted talks with foreign governments, too. Such back channels can add stability and predictability in foreign relations.

What’s not okay is when an incoming administration seeks to undermine the policies of the incumbent. We have “one president at a time.” That’s not just a political truism but a matter of law, enunciated back in 1799 in the Logan Act, which prohibits private meddling with official policy during a dispute. The fact that this statute has never been enforced criminally doesn’t blunt its importance.

And it’s not okay, either, for any citizen, even the son-in-law of the president-elect, to propose contacts that would use the communications tools of a foreign intelligence service to evade detection.

Russian Bank Directly Linked to Putin Helped Finance a Trump Hotel

A partner of President Trump’s financed Trump International Hotel and Tower in Toronto using hundreds of millions of dollars received from the Russian bank Vnesheconombank, or VEB, The Wall Street Journal reports. At the time of the deal, Russian President Vladimir Putin sat on VEB’s supervisory board; Russian experts say the bank is a “vehicle for the Russian government to fund politically important projects,” The Wall Street Journal writes.

Trump’s partner, Russian-Canadian developer Alexander Shnaider, helped finance the hotel after selling his company’s share in a Ukrainian steelmaker for $850 million. The unknown buyer, financed by VEB, was reportedly “an entity acting for the Russian government.”

After Mr. Shnaider and his partner sold their stake in the steelmaker, Mr. Shnaider injected more money into the Trump Toronto project, which was financially troubled. Mr. Shnaider’s lawyer, Symon Zucker, said in an April interview that about $15 million from the asset sale went into the Trump Toronto project. A day later, he wrote in an email: “I am not able to confirm that any funds” from the deal “went into the Toronto project.”

A spokesman for the Trump Organization, the family’s real-estate firm, said Mr. Trump had no involvement in any financial dealings with VEB and that the Trump company “merely licensed its brand and manages the hotel and residences.” VEB didn’t respond to requests for comment. [The Wall Street Journal]

In February, Trump claimed: “To the best of my knowledge, no person that I deal with [has dealings with Russia].” Trump also directed his lawyers to review his tax returns and release a letter showing limited income from Russian sources over the past decade.

[The Week]

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