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Wednesday, January 18, 2017

New info on Trump's Russian money connection

by digby

So, it's been confirmed that even while FBI Director James Comey was blathering on about Hillary Clinton's "recklessness" five years earlier by having a private email server which was never hacked and contained no information that did anything but show how boring government work actually is, he knew this was going on as he spoke:

The FBI and five other law enforcement and intelligence agencies have collaborated for months in an investigation into Russian attempts to influence the November election, including whether money from the Kremlin covertly aided President-elect Donald Trump, two people familiar with the matter said.

The agencies involved in the inquiry are the FBI, the CIA, the National Security Agency, the Justice Department, the Treasury Department’s Financial Crimes Enforcement Network and representatives of the director of national intelligence, the sources said.

Investigators are examining how money may have moved from the Kremlin to covertly help Trump win, the two sources said. One of the allegations involves whether a system for routinely paying thousands of Russian-American pensioners may have been used to pay some email hackers in the United States or to supply money to intermediaries who would then pay the hackers, the two sources said.

Trump addresses Russia accusations, business dealings in post-election press conference
President-elect Donald Trump on Wednesday delivered his first press conference since the November presidential election. Trump addressed his relationship with Russia and how he will handle his business once taking office.

The informal, inter-agency working group began to explore possible Russian interference last spring, long before the FBI received information from a former British spy hired to develop politically damaging and unverified research about Trump, according to the sources, who spoke on the condition of anonymity because of the sensitive nature of the inquiry.

On Jan. 6, the director of national intelligence released a declassified report that concluded Russian President Vladimir Putin had ordered an influence campaign to “undermine faith in the U.S. democratic process,” damage Hillary Clinton’s election prospects and bolster Trump’s. The campaign included the hacking of top Democrats’ emails and fake news distributed by Russian sources.

The president-elect, who will be inaugurated Friday, has said he believes Russia was involved with the hacking, and he has called allegations that he or his associates were involved a “political witch hunt” and a “complete and total fabrication.”

Trump has yet to say whether FBI Director James Comey will be retained. The rest of Trump’s newly appointed intelligence and law enforcement chiefs will inherit the investigation, whose outcome could create national and international fallout.

Trump's presidential transition team did not respond to a request for comment about the inquiry.

There's more here.

I don't know if any of the charges are true. But it does appear that there have been suspicions for some time that the Russian government was helping Trump and his own behavior has fed into that suspicion. Certainly, soft and gentle way he is dealing with the sanctions issue and his loose talk about NATO, along with the boundless positivity toward Putin himself as a great leader, seem odd for a man who is usually all about "toughness" and personal competitiveness. The whole thing is strange and while I have no idea what the depth of Trump's personal involvement in all this might be, it's certainly worthy of investigation and it should be done by a special prosecutor. Trump's IC leaders obviously cannot be trusted and James Comey should be banned from any involvement.

It's early days so who knows where this will go. Maybe there's a reasonable explanation for all this. If Russia hacked the presidential campaign, that's a big deal but it's also not entirely surprising. What would be a shocker is if it turns out that Trump's campaign was involved somehow. It appears there is some evidence out there that it was. This is uncharted territory.