4:51 AM 6/11/2018 – “This transatlantic rift is a gift to Russia that amply repays Vladimir Putin’s investment in helping the Trump campaign,” wrote the conservative foreign policy expert Max Boot.

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“This transatlantic rift is a gift to Russia that amply repays Vladimir Putin’s investment in helping the Trump campaign,” wrote the conservative foreign policy expert Max Boot… 

Whatever motivates Trump’s approach, “We will pay a price across the board,” Haass says. “I can’t account for it. I can’t explain it. I don’t believe he’s explained it.” 

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Trump is helping Putin with a key goal when he spurns US allies

  • President Trump called for Russia to be re-admitted to the G-7 group as he picked fights with U.S. allies.
  • Experts across the political spectrum said that the rift Trump created between the U.S. and its historical allies advances a Russian objective.

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The Road And The Toad o “The Shameless in Puerto Rico” (¡dale en el clavo, NYTimes!): The Road And The Toad: Puerto Rico on the Road To Banana Republic biked unabashedly forward by Carlos Cases of the PR branch of FBI, the Very Special Agent, with the subspecialty in COINTELPRO, set-ups, and frame-ups.

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Russian President Vladimir Putin gives a speech during a military parade at Red Square in Moscow on May 9, 2018. Akexei Druzhinin/AFP/Getty Images hide caption

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Russian President Vladimir Putin gives a speech during a military parade at Red Square in Moscow on May 9, 2018.

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The Russia imbroglio is a tale told out of order about a puzzle with pieces missing. Without knowing what goes in the blank spaces, it’s impossible to know what to make of the whole thing.

The broadest outline has become clear: Russian President Vladimir Putin sought vengeance against the United States and the West after what he perceived as an outrageous overstep by Washington, D.C., into his own front yard in 2014 following his invasion of Ukraine.

The Russia Investigations: What You Need To Know About Russian 'Active Measures'

Putin ordered a historic spike in Russia’s decades-old “active measures,” a broad wave of both overt and clandestine actions aimed at sowing chaos, undercutting public confidence and, eventually, hurting or helping specific political actors.

That strategy persists to this day, U.S. intelligence officials warn, and they say they expect it to lastthrough the 2018 and 2020 elections.

If Americans are more on guard about future foreign interference, however, big questions still remain about the Russian effort that took place during the 2016 cycle.

Did the Russians really have Hillary Clinton’s emails?

Intelligence operatives who reached out to Donald Trump’s campaign aides in the spring of 2016 claimed they could provide “thousands” of emails about Hillary Clinton, according to court documents. The materials don’t specify whether they were the emails deleted from the private server that Clinton used while she was secretary of state.

The Russians also promised more generally that they had “dirt” on Clinton that could help Trump’s campaign.

These promises got the attention of Trump aides from the most junior to the most senior level, and that led to a number of known contacts. At least one Republican operative sought outside technical expertiseto try to verify data he was being promised, an effort that apparently went nowhere.

More than two years after those initial offers, however, Clinton’s emails never have become public — although many other messages did, to the embarrassment of Democratic National Committee political operatives and others. So did the Russians ever really have Clinton’s emails or was it a ruse?

Or had the offer from Moscow become garbled and were the Russians actually touting the DNC emails they really did have? The answer to this question is important because it’s the difference between Russian intelligence officers just toying with the Americans — or potentially giving them advance notice about their plans for later in the year.

Why did the Russians reach out to the Trump campaign?

Intelligence officials and court documents suggest that the Russian government’s objectives in its 2016 interference effort evolved over time. Putin and his supporters loathed Clinton for a variety of reasons, including over her criticism of Russia’s suspicious elections and fear of tough new policies toward Russia if she were elected president. So their case against her is clear.

How, though, did Moscow arrive at the decision about which candidate or candidates to support — and why?

Some evidence suggests the Russians initially wanted to get behind only the most “extreme” candidates, to maximize the noise inside the U.S.

The Russia Investigations: Mueller Indicts The 'Internet Research Agency'

In February of 2016, according to court documents, orders went down to the Saint Petersburg influence-mongers at the “Internet Research Agency” who were waging a social media campaign to amplify controversy. Their instructions, as prosecutors later revealed, were to “use any opportunity to criticize Hillary and the rest (except [Vermont Sen. Bernie] Sanders and Trump — we support them.)”

But by March of 2016, Russian intelligence operatives in London were reaching out specifically to Trump campaign foreign policy adviser George Papadopoulos, according to court documents, to offer the emails, “dirt” and “off the record” meetings between campaign leaders and Russian officials.

Other overtures continued via intermediaries, including the National Rifle Association, and Russian business friends of the Trump family.

By June, exactly two years ago on Saturday, a Russian delegation visited Trump Tower to provide Donald Trump Jr. and other top campaign leaders with a political tip, according to the accounts of people in the meeting: Billionaire Democratic fundraisers might be moving money out of Russia and into the Democratic National Committee.

That wasn’t the “dirt” on Clinton that the Russians had been promising, and so Trump Jr. said he and the campaign took no action.

So what was the purpose of this meeting? Why did the Russians spend all the time and energy reaching out, then secure a high-level contact, only to disappoint their hosts?

What You Need To Know About The New Documents On The 2016 Trump Tower Meeting

Even after all this time, that answer still isn’t clear.

Were the Russians simply trying to throw more sand in the gears of the U.S. democratic process by making a connection they knew might eventually be discovered? Were they just trying to frame the Trump campaign by faking the appearance of a conspiracy?

Or was there more discussed than the people involved have acknowledged? Was the New York City meeting only a test to see whether Trump Jr. would call the FBI — and when he didn’t, did more substantive communication follow?

House Intelligence GOP Releases Full Report Clearing Trump In Russia Imbroglio

Trump, Trump Jr., and the rest of the leaders of the campaign say there was no conspiracy with the Russians who were attacking the election. The House intelligence committee’s Republican majority has said there was no wrongdoing and, at worst, these and other contacts between the campaign and Russians in 2016 were “ill-advised.”

One of the campaign leaders in the Trump Tower meeting, Trump’s son-in-law Jared Kushner, has had his top-secret security clearance restored after a suspension earlier this year. The move was interpreted as a good sign for Kushner if it indicated that counterintelligence officials didn’t raise any red flags about him.

Given that there appears to be no recording or independent account of the Trump Tower meeting, any evidence about the Russians’ intentions, or their perspective on its outcome, might be a foreign intelligence question. Will the CIA or National Security Agency answer it?

How much “infiltration” was there of American political organizations?

Why did the Russian government spend so much time building its relationship with the National Rifle Association? One apparent reason was to use it as an intermediary through which to make connections to Republican political figures, including the Trump family — although it isn’t clear to what end. How else did the Russian government perhaps want to use the NRA in the 2016 cycle?

Depth Of Russian Politician's Cultivation Of NRA Ties Revealed

The gun-rights group has denied any wrongdoing and declared to Congress that the donations it has raised from Russians or people in Russia amount to barely a pittancecompared to the total it brings in.

So is the case closed on political infiltration, or is there more to discover? One question is about whether the Russian government may have funneled money into U.S. political groups or campaigns in order to secure influence. Russians may literally have flown cash into the United Statesto give to intermediaries to contribute — without disclosing its origins.

Glenn Simpson, founder of the private intelligence firm Fusion GPS — which commissioned the infamous Steele dossier about Trump and Russia — told the House intelligence committee that Russian operatives may have infiltrated other political organizations. Some of them included the California and Texas statehood independence movements, he said.

If Justice Department special counsel Robert Mueller ultimately issues a public version of his final report telling the story of the Russian active measures, the section on potential illicit money and infiltration could be gripping.

What don’t we know that we don’t know?

There are details about the active measures we know we know. There are aspects, as discussed here, we know we don’t know. But what, as then-Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld might have asked, do we not know that we don’t know?

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Apr 4, 2018 – Such contacts are at the heart of Mr. Mueller’s investigation, and his … F.B.I. agents working with Mr. Mueller’s team stopped a Russian oligarch at a … also donated tens of thousands of dollars to an Israeli medical aid group …

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Robert Mueller.

Photo illustration by Slate. Photos by Saul Loeb/AFP/Getty Images and Thinkstock.

Robert Mueller’s investigation began as an inquiry into Russian interference in the 2016 election and is still often referred to, in shorthand, as the “Russia investigation,” but at this point, Russia is far from the only country involved. Here’s a rundown of some of the other foreign powers alleged to have had improper or illegal contact with members of the Trump administration.

Turkey

The allegations involving former national security adviser Michael Flynn and the government of Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan rival any Trump connections to the Kremlin reported so far. At the same time Flynn was advising Trump’s campaign, he was on the payroll of a company with close ties to Erdogan’s government, a fact he did not reveal until after he was named national security adviser. During this time, Flynn publicly advocated for the U.S. to extradite exiled Turkish cleric Fethullah Gülen, blamed by Erdogan for a 2016 coup attempt, and lobbied against a plan to partner with Kurdish forces to retake the Syrian city of Raqqa from ISIS—a plan opposed by the Turkish government. Mueller was also reportedly investigating a meeting between Flynn, his son, and several Turkish officials during the presidential transition at which they discussed a plan to deliver—kidnap, basically—Gülen to the Turkish government in exchange for $15 million.

Federal investigators have also reportedly reached out to several Turkish nationals through the FBI’s office in Ankara regarding Trump’s adviser and son-in-law Jared Kushner’s efforts to secure financing for his company’s real estate properties.

Qatar

Mueller’s team is also reportedly looking into conversations between Kushner and influential figures from Qatar. Last July, the Intercept reported that Kushner’s company had unsuccessfully sought a half-billion-dollar investment from Sheikh Hamad Bin Jassim al-Thani, the billionaire former prime minister of Qatar, throughout 2015 and 2016 for its struggling Manhattan property at 666 Fifth Avenue. A follow-up story in March reported that Kushner’s family company had made a direct pitch to Qatar’s minister of finance in the spring of 2017.

That timing looks suspicious. That summer, Saudi Arabia and several of its allies launched a blockade of Qatar. Though Qatar is also a Sunni Persian Gulf monarchy, it has angered its neighbors in recent years with its support for Muslim Brotherhood movements in other countries, its friendly relations with Iran and Turkey, and its sponsorship of the TV network Al-Jazeera. Trump, who has also unsuccessfully sought Qatari funding for his own business ventures in the past, publicly backed, and took credit for, the Saudi-led blockade, contradicting his own secretary of state, Rex Tillerson, who maintained a neutral stance. (While the U.S. and Qatar have certainly had their differences, the country also hosts the largest U.S. military base in the Middle East.) NBC reported in March that Qatari officials had considered giving Mueller documents showing “what they believe is evidence of efforts by their country’s Persian Gulf neighbors in coordination with Kushner to hurt their country” but decided not to for fear of further straining their relations with the White House.

There’s no proof that Kushner’s business dealings had anything to do with Trump’s stance on the blockade, but the appearance of a conflict of interest makes it hard to view the administration as a neutral arbiter in this dispute between ostensible U.S. allies.

United Arab Emirates

In recent weeks, Mueller’s investigators have been questioning George Nader, an adviser to the de facto ruler of the United Arab Emirates. According to the New York Times, they are looking into the possibility that the Emiratis used Nader—a Lebanese American businessman who, for decades, had had a sideline in freelance Middle East diplomacy—to funnel money to Trump’s campaign. Nader, an adviser to Crown Prince Mohammed Bin Zayed al-Nahyan, reportedly made frequent visits to the White House in the early months of the Trump administration, meeting with Kushner and former strategist Steve Bannon to discuss U.S. policy toward the Gulf States. (The Trump administration has generally been very friendly toward the UAE, which is mostly aligned with the Saudis in the dispute with Qatar.) At one point, Nader reportedly received a detailed report from a Trump fundraiser with UAE ties about an Oval Office meeting.

Nader also reportedly attended and helped organize a January 2017 meeting in the Seychelles between Erik Prince, the founder of Blackwater and an informal adviser to Trump, and a Russian investor with ties to Vladimir Putin. Mueller is believed to be gathering evidence that this meeting was intended to establish a back channel between the incoming administration and the Kremlin.

Israel

Mueller is also reportedly looking into Kushner and the incoming Trump administration’s efforts in December 2016 to block an anti-Israel U.N. resolution. The Security Council resolution demanded an end to Israeli settlement building in the Palestinian territories. The Obama administration, breaking with past precedent, chose to abstain from the vote rather than veto it. But Kushner and Flynn worked behind the scenes to try to scuttle the resolution, lobbying members of the Security Council to vote against it. Trump spoke personally with Egyptian President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi, whose government had sponsored the original resolution, after which Egypt withdrew it. But the resolution’s co-sponsors put it forward again, and it passed on Dec. 23.

Because Trump, Flynn, and Kushner were not yet government officials at the time, this was arguably a violation of the Logan Act, which bars private U.S. citizens from negotiating with foreign governments. (Among the officials Flynn spoke with was Russian Ambassador to the United States Sergey Kislyak. Flynn would later plead guilty to lying to the FBI about this and other conversations with Kislyak.)

The Kushner family has extensive business ties to Israel, including receiving a $30 million investment from one of the country’s largest financial institutions made shortly before Trump and Kushner’s first trip to the Middle East in May. Israel is one of several governments whose officials have discussed ways to use Kushner’s proximity to the president to their advantage, intelligence sources recently told the Washington Post.

China

China is reportedly one of the countries that Mueller’s team is looking into with regard to the Kushner family’s efforts to secure financing for its real estate properties. It is also one of the countries whose governments have discussed ways to influence the president’s inexperienced son-in-law—one factor in the recent downgrading of his security clearance.

The Chinese have an unusually chummy relationship with Kushner, even as his father-in-law has railed against the country’s trade practices. Before the downgrade, the New Yorker had reported that U.S. intelligence officials are concerned about China’s efforts to cultivate Kushner as an asset within the White House. Chinese officials, notably Ambassador Cui Tiankai, have reportedly often dealt directly with Kushner, without any American China specialists present to advise him.

Kushner real estate projects have received extensive Chinese financing, including through a U.S. immigration program that allows wealthy foreigners to obtain visas for investing in U.S. projects. Ivanka Trump also has business interests in China, where much of her branded merchandise is manufactured. Her company has won trademark approval for several products since she took a position in her father’s administration, raising further conflict-of-interest questions.

While Trump’s alleged ties to Russia have understandably gotten the most attention, the expanded focus of Mueller’s investigation suggests the possibility of a much wider pattern of criminal behavior, and that Moscow wasn’t the only foreign capital that had—or thought it had—leverage over this administration.

Correction, March 9, 2018: The photo illustration on this post originally highlighted Taiwan as part of China. China claims sovereignty over Taiwan, but the island is de facto independent.

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