Home Blog

CNN: Trump Admin hid intel on Russia’s 2016 election interference before he left office

CNN Trump Administration hid intel on Russia’s 2016 election interference before leaving office
Russian President Vladimir Putin attends a meeting with President of the United Arab Emirates Sheikh Mohamed bin Zayed Al Nahyan at Qasr Al Watan in Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates December 6, 2023. Sputnik/Aleksey Nikolskyi/Kremlin via REUTERS ATTENTION EDITORS - THIS IMAGE WAS PROVIDED BY A THIRD PARTY.

On December 15, CNN reported on their extensive investigation into a missing binder of U.S. intelligence on Russia’s 2016 election interference efforts.

In the tumultuous twilight of Donald Trump’s presidency, a 10-inch thick binder containing highly classified information related to Russian interference in the 2016 U.S. election went missing. This intelligence, first reported by CNN, was considered sensitive due to its inclusion of national security secrets from the U.S. and its allies. The binder was last seen in the White House during Trump’s final days, where it was brought upon his directive to declassify documents connected to the FBI’s Russia investigation.

The binder, which included other materials from the FBI’s “Crossfire Hurricane” investigation, sparked alarm among intelligence officials over the potential exposure of sources and methods. Senate Intelligence Committee leaders were briefed on the matter last year. Despite this, the intelligence has not been located in the two-plus years since Trump left office.

The controversial binder’s roots can be traced to 2018 when Devin Nunes, then Chairman of the House Intelligence Committee, led Republicans in crafting a classified report. This report alleged bias in the Obama administration’s intelligence analysis, claiming it was skewed to suggest that Russian President Vladimir Putin aimed to aid Donald Trump’s victory in the 2016 election.

In a unique security arrangement, the House Republicans placed the report in a safe, which was then stored inside a CIA vault. Nunes, who has since become the CEO of Trump’s media company, dismissed CNN’s questions by mocking them for focusing on”secret Trump binders.”

The binder’s disappearance and the concerns over handling classified information have led to multiple news outlets, including The New York Times and Reuters, reporting on the potential risks of a leak. Mark Meadows, Trump’s last chief of staff, was involved in handling the binder. Meadows’ aide, Cassidy Hutchinson, testified to Congress that she believed Meadows took the binder with him when he left the White House, a claim his lawyer denies.

Meanwhile, Trump and his allies have been pursuing releasing a redacted version of the binder. John Solomon, a conservative journalist appointed by Trump to access records from his presidency, sued the Justice Department and National Archives for access to the documents. The unredacted binder’s whereabouts remain unknown, and U.S. officials have declined to discuss any efforts to locate it. The classified intelligence from the 2016 election assessment has also become a point of interest in Trump’s defense against charges related to efforts to overturn the 2020 election.

This account is based on interviews CNN conducted with sources familiar with the matter, none of whom could provide conclusive information about the binder’s current location or the exact circumstances of its disappearance.

SOURCES:
https://www.cnn.com/interactive/2023/12/politics/missing-russia-intelligence-trump-dg/
https://www.reuters.com/world/us/binder-with-top-secret-russia-intelligence-missing-since-end-trump-term-source-2023-12-15/
https://www.independent.co.uk/news/world/americas/us-politics/russia-intelligence-donald-trump-president-b2464794.html
https://www.rferl.org/a/russia-election-meddling-intelligence-binder-missing-trump/32733302.html

Facebook suspends Donald Trump’s account until 2023

Facebook announces a two-year continued suspension on Donald Trump’s official account following the company’s Oversight Board recommendation last month.

The suspension will likely be lifted on January 7, 2023, two years after his initial suspension and the attack on the Capitol. The date is convenient if Trump decides to run for president again, but Facebook says they will re-evaluate the situation before that date.

Given the gravity of the circumstances that led to Mr Trump’s suspension, we believe his actions constituted a severe violation of our rules which merit the highest penalty available under the new enforcement protocols. We are suspending his accounts for two years, effective from the date of the initial suspension on January 7 this year.

Nick Clegg, Facebook Vice President of Global Affairs

The Facebook Oversight Board recommended continued suspension in early May and gave the company six months to make a final decision.

Trump calls the decision censorship and an insult to the people “who voted for us in the 2020 Rigged Presidential Election.”

External Sources

The Guardian (Archived)

Wall Street Journal (Archived)

NPR (Archived)

Photo: Souvik Banerjee

Michael Flynn’s brother is now in charge of 90,000 U.S. soldiers

Gen. Charles Flynn, brother of Michael Flynn, is named the new head of the U.S. Army Pacific, a position that oversees 90,000 troops operating in Hawaii, Alaska, Japan, South Korea, and the Pacific Ocean.

Between June 2019 and now, Flynn served as deputy chief of staff for Army operations and was in the room when the decision was made not to send troops to the Capitol on January 6. The Army initially lied about Flynn’s involvement.

Only a week ago, Michael Flynn called for a Myanmar-style coup in the United States.

There is no evidence that Charles Flynn is a threat to the United States or that he is compromised like his brother.

External Sources

Stars & Stripes (Archived)

CNN (Archived)

Photo: Jennifer Delaney/U.S. Army

Michael Flynn endorses violent military coup in United States

Former Trump national security adviser and pardoned Putin operative Michael Flynn tells QAnon supporters in Texas that a military coup should happen in the United States.

When someone in the audience asks Flynn why a Myanmar-like coup can’t happen in the United States, Flynn responds, “No reason. I mean, it should happen here.”

The crowd cheers.

Myanmar’s military seized power and overtook the country’s democratically-elected government in February. Since the coup, hundreds have been killed by Myanmar security forces and thousands of pro-democracy demonstrators have been detained according to the Assistance Association for Political Prisoners.

The Hill

Despite video of the event, Flynn later claims he has never endorsed any coup in America.

Flynn’s comments come as people close to Trump claim he believes he’ll be “reinstated” in August.

External Sources

The Hill (Archived)

Newsweek (Archived)

CNN (Archived)

Business Insider (Archived)

Photo: Alex Wroblewski/Getty

Russia launches spearfishing campaign through U.S. gov’t emails

Sometime in the days leading up to May 24, hackers working for Russia’s SVR intelligence agency begin sending malicious emails to more than 3,000 people through an email system used by the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID).

The emails, which include a path for hackers to gain unlimited access to the computer systems of recipients, likely began going out sometime last week and are reported to the public by Microsoft on May 27. Russian agents targeted and continue to target human rights groups, think tanks, and other U.S. organizations that have been critical of Vladimir Putin.

In essence, the Russians got into the Agency for International Development email system by routing around the agency and going directly after its software suppliers. Constant Contact manages mass emails and other communications on the aid agency’s behalf…. By breaching the systems of a supplier used by the federal government, the hackers sent out genuine-looking emails to more than 3,000 accounts across more than 150 organizations that regularly receive communications from the United States Agency for International Development. Those emails went out as recently as this week, and Microsoft said it believes the attacks are ongoing.

The Boston Globe

The emails include a line of linked text, such as “Donald Trump has published new emails on election fraud,” that, when clicked, drops malicious files onto the computers of the recipients.

Microsoft

Russia’s SVR is also responsible for the SolarWinds breach last year, which included many U.S. agencies, the military, the federal courts system, and over 80 percent of the country’s Fortune 500 companies.

At the time of this writing, it’s unclear how many of the 3,000 emails were successful in infecting computer systems and which agencies have been breached. The Biden White House downplays the attack, saying this kind of breach is typical of daily cyber concerns for the U.S. government.

External Sources

Wired (Archived)

MSN / Boston Globe (Archived)

The New York Times (Archived)

Photo: DMITRI LOVETSKY/REUTERS

WaPo: Trump rallies to resume this summer, Trump Media Group

The Washington Post reports that Trump will return to doing rallies across the U.S. and launch a new project called Trump Media Group in an attempt to regain media attention he’s lost since leaving office.

Trump Media Group might include his own social media platform, but details of the project are under wraps. It’s expected to launch this summer.

News of TMG and upcoming rallies comes as posts on Trump’s “platform” — a blog promoted as a home for free speech — fail to spark the media or the internet’s interest.

Online talk about him has plunged to a five-year low. He’s banned or ignored on pretty much every major social media venue. In the last week, Trump’s website — including his new blog, fundraising page and online storefront ­— attracted fewer estimated visitors than the pet-adoption service Petfinder and the recipe site Delish… Social engagement around Trump — a measure of likes, reactions, comments or shares on content about him across Facebook, Twitter, Reddit and Pinterest — has nosedived 95 percent since January, to its lowest level since 2016.

The Washington Post

Sources tell the Post that Trump is also open to joining a conservative social network (like Gab or Parler) if he’s promised enough money and control of the platform.

Read The Story

The Washington Post (Archived)

Illustration by Trump File

Original Photo: Gage Skidmore

New York AG joins Manhattan DA’s Trump investigation

New York Attorney General Letitia James’ office announces that staff are now assisting Manhattan District Attorney Cy Vance’s criminal probe of the Trump Organization. The news comes after the AG’s office, which was already engaged in a civil investigation of the company, found evidence of a possible crime.

Vance’s office is investigating whether Trump, his family, and/or other executives intentionally inflated the value of Trump properties to qualify for loans and lowered property values to limit tax payments.

The announcement is initially misunderstood as a new criminal investigation into the Trump Organization, but the AG’s office is simply lending support to the DA’s office and naming staff “special assistant district attorneys.”

This announcement was not merely stylistic, however. It represents a serious commitment by James to go all in on the DA’s criminal investigation. James is a politician who holds elective office, and her high-profile announcement ensures that she will share in the credit or the blame for the outcome of this investigation… The fact that James was willing to stick her neck out and join the criminal investigation in a very public way suggests to me that her team believes the DA’s criminal prosecution will ultimately achieve some measure of success.

Politico

The Manhattan DA’s office has already obtained millions of pages of documents and likely subpoenaed current and former employees.

Two days later, the Attorney General’s office announces a new criminal investigation into Allen Weisselberg in connection to his personal taxes. Weisselberg is the Trump Organization’s chief financial officer and has been a public target of Cy Vance’s investigation.

The Trump family is painting the investigations as a corrupt and desperate attempt to find crime where there is none.

The Attorney General of New York literally campaigned on prosecuting Donald Trump even before she knew anything about me. She said that if elected, she would use her office to look into “every aspect” of my real estate dealings. She swore that she would “definitely sue” me.

Statement by Donald J. Trump

External Sources

Politico (Archived)

CNBC 1 (Archived)

CNBC 2 (Archived)

Photo: ILLUSTRATION BY VANITY FAIR; RETOUCHING BY IMPACT DIGITAL. PHOTOGRAPH BY GEORGECLERK/ISTOCK/GETTY IMAGES

Is Trump getting intelligence briefings? Clickbait tricked America

A little over three months ago, a story went viral online. If you didn’t see it then, you might have spotted it more recently when political figures on Twitter shared it for the first time, apparently missing the story until now. It looks something like this…

The New York Times: Biden Bars Trump From Receiving Intelligence Briefings, Citing ‘Erratic Behavior’

That’s a really comforting headline, isn’t it? Without intelligence briefings, there’s no fear of Donald Trump passing the latest state secrets to our enemies or any other catastrophic exchange he might make with classified information, like he did in the White House. Twitter rejoiced at the news, both three months ago and a couple weeks ago.

We could all sleep easier at night, if it wasn’t a lie. We have no idea if Trump is still receiving intelligence briefings traditionally shared with former presidents.

Neither President Joseph R. Biden or any government official has, to my knowledge, confirmed the New York Times headline, and no reporter has asked for an update.

The Times story stems from a CBS Evening News interview in which Biden was asked if Trump should — should — receive intelligence briefings. “I think not,” Biden responded. “I just think that there is no need from him to have the intelligence briefings. What value is giving him an intelligence briefing? What impact does he have at all, other than the fact he might slip and say something?”

To their credit, the Times article never claims that Trump has been barred from receiving briefings. Unfortunately, the average person — including Christine Pelosi, apparently — only read the headline.

Other outlets were more professional in their reporting. For example, Newsweek‘s headline was “Joe Biden Says No Intelligence Briefings for Donald Trump: ‘He Might Slip and Say Something.'” Almost accurate. CNN‘s headline was “Biden says Trump should no longer receive classified intelligence briefings.” Accurate.

Those of you who follow Trump File on Twitter know that I don’t condone disinformation on either side of the aisle. However, if a mainstream, corporate outlet like the New York Times is going to publish disinformation, intentionally or not, then at the very least it should not help provide cover for Trump.

I urge readers to pressure the Biden administration for an update on this. While you’re at it, please demand that the president free Reality Winner.

External Sources

The New York Times (Archived)

Newsweek / MSN (Archived)

Twitter – Christine Pelosi (Archived)

YouTube – Reality Winner

Photo: Public Domain

FEC drops Trump hush-money probe despite Cohen confession

The Federal Elections Commission decides to drop its probe of the 2016 hush-money payment to Stormy Daniels, which violated campaign finance laws.

In 2016, Michael Cohen arranged a $130,000 payment to Daniels, with Donald Trump’s explicit approval. In return, Daniels remained silent about her affair with Trump and saved his campaign from a potentially devastating story.

Cohen pleaded guilty to breaking campaign finance laws and other charges in 2018, the same year that Trump admitted to knowing about the payment.

The commission is made up of three Democrats and three Republicans. They were split down the middle on how to proceed.

two Republican commissioners, Sean Cooksey and Trey Trainor, said they voted to dismiss the case because it was “statute-of-limitations imperiled” and that pursuing it further would be a poor use of agency resources. They argued that because there had been other federal inquiries into the incident — namely the Justice Department probe that led to Cohen’s prosecution — an FEC case would be redundant.

The Washington Post

Michael Cohen responds to the news, reiterating his previous statements.

The Justice Department has until October to launch an investigation into Trump’s involvement in the crime, but such an investigation is unlikely.

External Sources

The Washington Post (Archived)

The Hill (Archived)

Twitter

Photo: Gage Skidmore

Justice Dept. tells reporters that Trump DOJ had their phone records

The Trump Justice Department secretly gained access to three Washington Post reporters’ phone records in 2020, without telling them until today.

The decision to use secret subpoenas to access reporters’ records was approved by Attorney General William Barr sometime last year. The subpoenas include all calls on home phones, cellphones, and work phones between April 15, 2017 and July 31, 2017 — when the Trump administration was focused on stopping government leaks and whistleblowers.

During that timeframe, the three targeted journalists were working on a story about then-Sen. Jeff Sessions discussing the Trump campaign with Sergey Kislyak, Russia’s ambassador to the United States in 2016. Their reporting was based on classified U.S. intelligence documents and anonymous sources.

Justice Department officials would not say if that reporting was the reason for the search of journalists’ phone records. Sessions subsequently became President Donald Trump’s first attorney general and was at the Justice Department when the article appeared.

About a month before that story published, the same three journalists also wrote a detailed story about the Obama administration’s internal struggles to counter Russian interference in the 2016 election.

The Washington Post

The Trump Justice Department repeatedly told journalists in 2017 that, while Sessions and Kislyak were at the same event, their paths never crossed. If the subpoenas were related to the Sessions-Kislyak story, then DOJ officials knew they were lying and that reporters had a real inside source.


Later, on May 13, the Justice Department informs CNN Pentagon correspondent Barbara Starr that officials had obtained her phone and email records for the period between June 1, 2017, and July 31, 2017.

It is unclear when the investigation was opened, whether it happened under Attorney General Jeff Sessions or Attorney General William Barr, and what the Trump administration was looking for in Starr’s records. The Justice Department confirmed the records were sought through the courts last year but provided no further explanation or context.

CNN

In that time frame, Starr reported on Trump plans for North Korea, the U.S. response to a potential chemical attack in Syria, and a Trump administration decision to delay releasing information about American military deaths in Afghanistan.

External Sources

The Washington Post (Archived)

Twitter – DOJ Emails (Archived)

CNN (Archived)

Photo: Drew Angerer / Getty Images via Newsweek

Why is Putin’s Favorite ‘News’ Network Funding the Arizona Recount?

For nearly two weeks, the now-infamous company Cyber Ninjas has been in charge of an election audit in Maricopa County, the most populous county in Arizona. The company has been criticized for the founder’s promotion of election conspiracies and for audit policies that fail to meet state standards.

However, no one seems to notice — or care — that the recount is at least partially funded by Vladimir Putin’s personal U.S. disinformation outlet, One America News Network, or that OANN is classified as a nonpartisan observer.

The pro-Trump cable channel One America News Network has started a fund-raiser to finance the venture and has been named one of the nonpartisan observers that will keep the audit on the straight and narrow.

The New York Times – April 25, 2021

As recently as last month, the U.S. intelligence community recognized that One America News was a valuable tool in Russia’s arsenal for disinformation and election interference leading up to the 2020 election. The intelligence community didn’t name the network, but it didn’t have to.

(1) The report identified Ukrainian legislator Andriy Derkach as having “a prominent role in Russia’s election influence activities.” OANN employees travelled to Ukraine with Rudy Giuliani to interview Derkach for a special report on Hunter Biden and Burisma — a Kremlin disinformation campaign.

(2) Intelligence assessed that Putin’s disinformation agents “helped produce a documentary that aired on a US television network.” The documentary was The Ukraine Hoax, which stars Russian asset, Trump HHS official, and Roger Stone protégé Michael Caputo. The Ukraine Hoax aired on OANN.

(3) The findings also emphasized Russia’s efforts to amplify the “stolen election” conspiracy, more commonly referred to as Stop The Steal — which was announced by Ali Alexander and Jack Posobiec in September 2020. Posobiec works for, you guessed it, One America News.

Posobiec also appears to have had a relationship with SouthFront, an obscure news website that was identified by the U.S. Treasury as a disinformation outlet operated by Russia’s FSB intelligence agency. The FSB often promoted and cited Posobiec, and he shared the agency’s content on social media.

The network’s ties to Russia don’t end there. Since 2016, new hires have been informed that “we like Russia, here,” and the company employs at least one former reporter for Sputnik — a Russian state-funded media outlet.

Assignments that [Robert Herring, the CEO of Herring Networks, OAN’s parent company] takes a special interest in are known among OAN staff as “H stories,” several current and former employees said. The day after Trump supporters stormed the Capitol, Mr. Herring instructed OAN employees in an email, which The New York Times reviewed, to “report all the things Antifa did yesterday.”

Some “H stories” are reported by Kristian Rouz, an OAN correspondent who had written for Sputnik, a site backed by the Russian government. In a report in May on the pandemic, Mr. Rouz said Covid-19 might have started as a “globalist conspiracy to establish sweeping population control,” one that had ties to Bill and Hillary Clinton, the billionaires George Soros and Bill Gates, and “the deep state.”

The New York Times – April 18, 2021

Yes, there are other red flags around the Maricopa County recount. Cyber Ninjas founder Doug Logan promoted election fraud conspiracies. The company’s address in 2016 is now the campaign headquarters for a Florida Republican lawmaker. Volunteers weren’t using the necessary red ink to mark ballots, meaning they could change votes if they tried. The company’s audit policies “allow counters to accept a large enough error rate to perhaps show Trump won the state.”

There’s no end to the current issues in the Arizona GOP-backed audit, but there needs to be more attention on the recount’s financial ties to OANN, a company which is incapable of being “nonpartisan” and is likely working with a foreign enemy whose influence in recent elections has been well documented.

Take the Kremlin and the conspiracies out of the network, and there’s still underreported controversy surrounding OANN’s involvement in the audit: the Trump family is invested in the network.

External Sources

The New York Times – April 25, 2021 (Archived)

SPL Center – Posobiec & Russia’s FSB (Archived)

The New York Times – April 18, 2021 (Archived)

AZ Central – Doug Logan (Archived)

Twitter – Cyber Ninjas Address (Archived)

AZ Central – Red Ink (Archived)

The Washington Post – Audit Policies (Archived)

Salon – Trump investments in OANN (Archived)

Original Photo: Unknown
Illustration: Trump File

Trump charges taxpayers $40,000 for Secret Service at Mar-a-Lago

Between January 20 and today, Donald Trump has charged the Secret Service over $40,000 to work at Mar-a-Lago — where they are assigned to protect him.

The $40,000 number is the result of charging $396.15 a day for a room that agents used as a workspace at the Palm Beach club. Of course, that’s taxpayer dollars.

Trump stayed at Mar-a-Lago more than a week beyond that before moving to his Bedminster, N.J., club for the summer. It was unclear whether he continued to charge the Secret Service into May.

Records documenting the charges were released by the Secret Service in response to a public-records request from The Washington Post. They are the first evidence that Trump has continued a controversial and lucrative practice — charging rent to his own protectors — into his post-presidency.

The Washington Post

Between 2017 and 2020, Trump properties charged the government over $2.5 million for rooms that officials — usually Secret Service — had to stay in to stay near the president.

Former presidents receive Secret Service protection for life. Historians interviewed by The Washington Post in 2020 could not find another president in history who has charged the Secret Service at the rate that Trump did as president. Trump’s post-presidency charges are even greater for the January – April period. The daily bill is the same, but the stay is much longer than his trips to Mar-a-Lago as president.

External Sources

The Washington Post (Archived)

Photo: Unknown, via ABC