Investigators are focusing on a series of meetings held by Jared Kushner, President Trump’s son-in-law and an influential White House adviser, as part of their probe into Russian meddling in the 2016 election and related matters, according to people familiar with the investigation. Kushner, who held meetings in December with the Russian ambassador and a banker from Moscow, is being investigated because of the extent and nature of his interactions with the Russians, the people said. The Washington Post reported last week that a senior White House official close to the president was a significant focus of the high-stakes investigation, though it did not name Kushner.
Republican Congressman Trey Gowdy was just trying to help. But as they have for weeks, attempts to defend President Trump against the accelerating investigation into possible collusion between his campaign and Russia just seem to make things worse. At a May 23 House Intelligence Committee hearing into the Russian operation against the 2016 presidential election, Gowdy asked former CIA chief John Brennan, who stepped down on Jan. 20, whether he had seen any “evidence of collusion, coordination [or] conspiracy between Donald Trump and Russian state actors.” If Gowdy thought Brennan was going to distance the President from the spreading scandal, his move backfired. “I saw information and intelligence that was worthy of investigation by the [FBI] to determine whether or not such cooperation or [collusion] was taking place,” Brennan said. When pressed by the retreating Gowdy on whether he meant Trump in particular, Brennan said he wasn’t referring to “any individuals” but wouldn’t rule Trump out, either. The damage was done.
The prominent New York lawyer expected to represent President Donald Trump in the widening Russia probes has professional connections of his own to Moscow, which could create yet another public-relations problem for the White House. Marc Kasowitz, who has been Trump’s go-to lawyer for years on both personal and business matters, is defending a Russian bank, OJSC Sberbank, in an ongoing lawsuit in US court. He also represents a company controlled by a Russian billionaire, Oleg Deripaska, who has close ties to the Kremlin. Kasowitz’ clients with Russian ties may not pose any legal conflicts of interests as he prepares to help Trump navigate an investigation that the president calls “a witch hunt.” But the optics of the situation — a lawyer with Russian-linked clients representing a president, whose campaign is being investigated for alleged collusion with Russia — could make a messy situation for Trump even messier.
The Russian spy story continued to reverberate on the campaign trail, as Prime Minister Muscat had to deal with the backlash of ridicule that erupted after his announcement that he had received information from two allied secret services that Russia was behind the Egrant saga. In the morning, the Prime Minister once again reiterated what he had said a day earlier, with much less drama, but he would not be drawn into saying whether he believed the story was true or otherwise. And nobody was expecting him to say yes or no. A “yes” would have brought even more disdain, and open up diplomatic issues, and a “no” would have been an admission that the story was nothing more than an attempt to win some sympathy.
Hackers will target American voting machines—as a public service, to prove how vulnerable they are. When over 25,000 of them descend on Caesar’s Palace in Las Vegas at the end of July for DEFCON, the world’s largest hacking conference, organizers are planning to have waiting what they call “a village” of different opportunities to test how easily voting machines can be manipulated. Some will let people go after the network software remotely, some will be broken apart to let people dig into the hardware, and some will be set up to see how a prepared hacker could fiddle with individual machines on site in a polling place through a combination of physical and virtual attacks.
National: Top Russian Officials Discussed How to Influence Trump Aides Last Summer | The New York Times
American spies collected information last summer revealing that senior Russian intelligence and political officials were discussing how to exert influence over Donald J. Trump through his advisers, according to three current and former American officials familiar with the intelligence. The conversations focused on Paul Manafort, the Trump campaign chairman at the time, and Michael T. Flynn, a retired general who was advising Mr. Trump, the officials said. Both men had indirect ties to Russian officials, who appeared confident that each could be used to help shape Mr. Trump’s opinions on Russia. Some Russians boasted about how well they knew Mr. Flynn. Others discussed leveraging their ties to Viktor F. Yanukovych, the deposed president of Ukraine living in exile in Russia, who at one time had worked closely with Mr. Manafort.
Malta: Russian red herring for breakfast – Why would Putin want to elect Simon Busuttil? | The Malta Independent
Yesterday will undoubtedly go down in history as one of the more bizarre days in Maltese electoral history. But before delving into the somewhat murky waters of the Prime Minister’s cloak and dagger, and diplomatically dangerous, assertions about Russia’s nefarious interests in Maltese political affairs one central question needs to be asked: why, exactly would Vladimir Putin want to see Simon Busuttil elected? The fact of the matter is that if asked to choose a preferred leader of Malta, Putin would no doubt prefer a Socialist Prime Minister who has over his tenure consistently looked east and courted and sold state assets to countries such as Azerbaijan and China over a Christian Democrat who believes so wholeheartedly in the European project.
National: Ex-CIA chief: Trump staff had enough contact with Russia to justify FBI inquiry | The Guardian
The former CIA director, John Brennan, has said there were enough contacts between members of the Trump campaign and Moscow by last summer to justify further investigation by the FBI. In testimony to the House intelligence committee, Brennan gave the fullest account to date of the scale of the effort to combat Russian operations to affect the outcome of the 2016 elections. He confirmed that the CIA had set up a special group with the NSA and FBI in late July to investigate the extent of Russian intervention in the presidential election. He briefed congressional leaders on the threat and on 4 August he warned Alexander Bortnikov, the head of the Russian intelligence agency, FSB, in a telephone call to stop the meddling, telling him it would backfire. Bortnikov told Brennan he would pass on the message to Vladmir Putin.
National: Richard Clarke: Why the journalists, spies, and politicians warned about Trump’s Russia ties couldn’t believe their eyes | Quartz
As the US Congress, the FBI, and newly appointed special counsel Robert Mueller probe the nest of activities around Russian interference in US politics, a lot of people are asking the same question: Why didn’t we know about all of this before the presidential election? If it turns out that there was a major Russian role in the outcome of the election, much of the US media, some members of Congress, and even leaders in the Obama White House may have to admit that they had fair warning. As with so many other disasters, from the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks to Hurricane Katrina and the Fukushima nuclear plant meltdowns, a lot of powerful people ignored an expert who very clearly told us what was coming.
In May 2016, a Russian military intelligence officer talked too much. Boasting to a colleague, he said that his organization, known as the GRU, was getting ready to cause chaos in the upcoming U.S. presidential election. The officer was “bragging about the systematic attempt… to cause chaos into our electoral cycle,” a senior U.S. intelligence official told TIME for the magazine’s current cover story on the Russian operation. What the officer didn’t know was that U.S. spies were listening. Looking back as part of their effort to uncover the details of the 2016 Russia operation, U.S. investigators now realize the GRU officer’s boast was the first indication they had from their sources that Russia wasn’t just hacking U.S. email accounts to collect intelligence, but was actually planning to interfere in the vote, several senior intelligence officials told TIME.