Despite all the controversy swirling around various Trump campaign members and their links to Russia, Vice President Mike Pence’s Russian connection should not be over-looked.
When former Trump campaign chairman, Paul Manafort’s Russian ties were discovered by the media he immediately resigned. Once again the Trump campaign is making headlines as more news about Paul Manafort and various members of the Trump administration emerge and show clear links to Russia.
Where does Mike Pence come into play? Well, according to New York Post, Donald Trump had plans to ask New Jersey Governor Chris Christie to run as his vice president but ended up asking Indiana Governor Mike Pence, after Paul Manafort insisted he give him further consideration.
With the focus being brought back to the Trump campaign/Russian connection, and the FBI revealing evidence that links Trump’s associates, past and present, to the Russian government it’s time to remember that the man at the middle of it all, Paul Manafort, hand picked Mike Pence to be Vice President. The next in line, should anything happen to the volatile president of the United States, was planted there by a man who has undeniably suspicious Russian ties.
Although, for the most part, Mike Pence has manage to stay out of the spotlight for some of the more recent negative news where Trump is concerned, his role should be looked at closer.
Pence has largely managed to avoid getting his name pulled into the Russian scandals, but it appears we need to rethink that.
We are learning more details each day about the Trump administration’s apparent connections to the Russian government and Russian special interests.
Americans need to wake up and pay attention to these serious allegations.
Sanders Campaign Consultant Manafort was not the only American political consultant in 2016 who had a checkered history of muddying the waters of international politics. In 2009 Manafort was working to help improve the image of pro-Russian Ukranian politician Viktor Yanukovych in an effort to make the presidential nominee seem more accessible, and thus more palatable, to the American Congress. Joining Manafort in that effort was an American consultant named Tad Devine, a man who himself had a dubious history of foreign intervention. Among Devine's highlights is having worked for exiled Bolivian president Gonzalo Sanchez de Lozada in 2002 as well as ousted Honduran president Manuel Zelaya in 2005. Devine then worked for Yanukovych from 2006 up until he was elected president of Ukraine in 2010. Like both Lozada and Zelaya, Yanukovych has since been removed from power and he currently resides in exile in Russia and just happens to be wanted for treason in Ukraine.
Devine previously worked on actual successful campaigns for Bernie Sanders' 1996 congressional run as well as his 2006 senatorial run, Devine officially joined Sanders' presidential campaign as a senior advisor in May of 2015. Over the course of the next fourteen months, Devine not only became one of the mouthpieces of the campaign but was also able to net himself a pretty penny. According to Slate,through both his consulting work as well as his work with Old Time Media, Devine was able to net himself roughly $10 million through his work on the campaign. For a campaign that prided itself as going to fight for the little guy, Devine, an establishment political consultant and friend of Bernie Sanders, seemed perfectly content to pocket millions of dollars.
But Devine's hefty payday might not have been paid for entirely by gullible Americans giving $27 each. Throughout the Democratic primary, the Sanders campaign was cited for FEC violations on three separate occasions including a mysterious $10 million donation from a single address in Washington, DC. Despite consistent calls for financial transparency on the campaign trail, the Sanders campaign was exceedingly secretive when it came to its own finances. After twice filing for extensions from the FEC, the Sanders campaign ultimately decided to forgo its final financial disclosure statement in June citing the fact that campaign was no longer active. This decision was accompanied by the news that Sanders himself had purchased a $575,000 home in August, much to the dismay of his loyal followers. The home would be the third residence for Sanders, someone who railed against a system that increasingly favored the millionaires and billionaires of our country.
Yet these financial gains for both Devine and Sanders would never have been possible had it not been for the millions of campaign contributions that came their way. And the only way to get campaign contributions is to convince your supporters you might actually have a chance to win. Luckily for Devine and Sanders, they had some foreign friends who were willing to step in. As reported by Rachel Maddow last week there existed an army of Russian botswho were weaponized to influence our election. Many of them took to various social media sites to discredit and disrupt Hillary Clinton's campaign and thus, energize potential Bernie Sanders supporters. Knowing that Clinton had been a target of right-wing media smears for a quarter-century, all the bots had to do was plant this seed to potential Sanders supporters, many of whom had no experience in politics, to get them onboard with the Sanders campaign. By doing this, Sanders and Devine were able to successfully pocket millions of dollars all while pretending to be champions of the common man.
In addition to all this, the Sanders campaign was able to magically avoid any public assault from Wikileaks. While Julian Assange's hacker group directly targeted the Clinton campaign, Sanders and his team not only avoided any cyberwarfare but also were able to benefit from the attacks in claiming they were victims of an alleged conspiracy against them. In fact, this played out nicely to the Sanders narrative that everyone was against them despite the fact that the campaign was found guilty of stealing data from the Clinton campaign ahead of the first primaries. Wikileaks clearly had a dog in the race that that dog just happened to be anyone but Hillary Clinton. The fact that Wikileaks released its first batch of emails a mere three days before the Democratic National Convention was no coincidence and was designed to cause as much chaos as possible at a point in time when Sanders had no reasonable expectation of being the nominee. This was truly a last ditch effort by Russia to avoid Hillary Clinton being presidential nominee for the Democratic Party.
So Bernie Sanders hired a political consultant with pro-Russia experience, had a mysterious unidentified campaign donation, had numerous Russian agents working on behalf of his campaign, and benefitted from Russian-backed Wikileaks. At a time when a public investigation is centering on the Trump administration, the question begs to be asked: what was Bernie Sanders' role in all this? Was Russia simply using Sanders and his supporters as willing stooges in their efforts to bring down Hillary Clinton? Or did Sanders have knowledge of their involvement? Who gave Sanders that mysterious $10 million donation? Why did he refuse to submit his final FEC filing? And why has Bernie Sanders remained silent as the Trump Administration has become more and more corrupt in its dealings with Russia?
To paraphrase Congressman Adam Schiff, all of these Russian connections might be a coincidence for a person like Bernie Sanders. Or there might actually be an intentional collusion between the two parties. At this point though, this issue needs to be raised. Sanders' silence on any and all Russian-related issues since the election is deepy troubling at a time when his supporters still believe him to be a savior of the party. As groups like Justice Democrats try to undermine the Democratic Party by attempting to primary candidates they don't believe to be progressive enough, there needs to be a thorough discussion about Sanders' potential involvement with a foreign adversary that directly infringed upon the sovereignty of our nation. As someone who directly benefitted from Russian interference, both politically and monetarily, Sanders owes us all, not just Democrats, an explanation for everything that has happened.
Below is a timeline of known incidents before and after the election that reveal a troubling pattern of alignment and possible illegal conduct between President Donald Trump’s inner circle and Russian officials. But the question remains: What don’t we know?
The American people need answers, and that requires an independent, bipartisan commission to fully investigate all aspects of Russia’s operation targeting the 2016 presidential election.
Trump takes his first known trip to the then-Soviet Union, visiting Moscow and Leningrad—now St. Petersburg—to explore hotel and real estate opportunities. He meets with the Soviet ambassador to the United States.
Beginning in the early 1990s, The Trump Organization “was hemorrhaging money and Trump was on the hook for hundreds of millions of dollars.” Trump found himself $3.4 billion in debt, $832.5 million for which he was personally liable.
In 1995, Trump declares a $916 million loss on his income tax returns. His business interests are taking a toll on his creditworthiness, and most "[b]ankers on Wall Street became unwilling to lend him money due to what they termed ‘the Donald risk.’” He needs money, and turns to two sources: Deutsche Bank and Bayrock Group.
Deutsche Bank provides Trump $125 million to renovate an office building at 40 Wall Street. More deals follow, with the bank providing or underwriting $1.3 billion to Trump entities over the next few years. More recently, Deutsche Bank has been at the center of schemes to help Russians secretly funnel money offshore. In January 2017, the bank “was hit with about $630 million in penalties … over a $10 billion Russian money-laundering scheme that involved its Moscow, New York and London branches.”
With the help of Trump lawyer Michael Cohen, dozens of Russian buyers purchase apartments in Trump properties, according to Sergei Millian, a Russian émigré who reportedly served as a broker between Russian buyers and Trump. Millian said The Trump Organization received “hundreds of millions of dollars” through deals with Russian businessmen.
Trump travels to Moscow for the Miss Universe pageant, where he meets with numerous Russian oligarchs, including Aras Agalarov, to explore future business ventures in Russia.Video and photo evidence place Trump at the Moscow Ritz-Carlton for the filming of Emin Agalarov’s music video during that trip.
GOP presidential primary candidate Trump introduces his campaign’s foreign policy advisory team, chaired by then-Sen. Jeff Sessions (R-AL). Energy industry executive Carter Page, largely unheard of in foreign policy circles, is second on the list. Politico indicates that Sessions’ chief of staff Rick Dearborn may have recruited Page.
Paul Manafort discusses an “array of subjects related to the presidential campaign, including the hacking of the DNC’s emails” with Konstantin Kilimnik, a Russian-Ukrainian political operative with ties to Russian intelligence.
Director of National Intelligence James Clapper reports that the U.S. intelligence community has evidence of foreign spy services attempting to hack digital networks used by U.S. presidential campaigns, including the Democratic National Committee, or DNC, and the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, or DCCC.
A day after The Washington Postbreaks the news that the DNC has been hacked, allegedly by Russian spies, Trump’s team issues a statement: “We believe it was the DNC that did the ‘hacking’ as a way to distract from the many issues facing their deeply flawed candidate and failed party leader.”
Sen. Sessions, identified as a senior adviser to the Trump campaign, keynotes a luncheon in Cleveland co-hosted by the Heritage Foundation and the U.S. State Department. He meets with Russian Ambassador to the United States Kislyakfollowing his remarks. Carter Page and Trump adviser J.D. Gordon also meet with Russian Ambassador Kislyak during the Republican National Convention in Cleveland.
The DCCC announces it too has been hacked—later confirmed by the same Russia actors behind the DNC breach. The Russian hacker Guccifer 2.0 subsequently releases stolen DCCC documents. targeting House races in several states including Florida, Pennsylvania, New Hampshire, Ohio, Illinois, and North Carolina.
Trumpreceives the first of several classified briefings by intelligence agencies that included information about the hacking incidents, including “direct links” between Russian President Putin’s government and the hacks and email leaks. Clinton and Trump are entitled to these briefings as the major party presidential nominees.
Trump ally Roger Stone, who has close ties to WikiLeaks and Russia, predicts WikiLeaks’ release of Clinton campaign chairman John Podesta’s emails on Twitter: “Trust me, it will soon [be] Podesta’s time in the barrel.”
The “Gang of 12”—Senate, House, and congressional intelligence committee leaders—receive briefings from the intelligence community about Russian interference in the election, at which point Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) voices doubts about the intelligence presented.
In an interview with the Russian government-backed RT cable channel, Trumpsays it was “probably unlikely” Putin was behind the hacks. Instead, he claims: “I think maybe the Democrats are putting that out. Who knows, but I think it’s pretty unlikely.” Later, at the Commander-in-Chief Forum, Trump declares that Vladimir Putin has been “a leader far more” than President Barack Obama.
During the first presidential debate, Trump questions intelligence community findings that Russia broke into the DNC: “I don’t think anybody knows it was Russia that broke into the DNC. [Clinton’s] saying Russia, Russia, Russia, but I don’t—maybe it was. I mean, it could be Russia, but it could also be China. It could also be lots of other people. It also could be somebody sitting on their bed that weighs 400 pounds, OK?”
The U.S. Department of Homeland Security, or DHS, and Director of National Intelligence James Clapper release a unanimous assessment on behalf of the intelligence community that formally accuses the Russian government of stealing and leaking emails from the DNC and other U.S. political organizations. Their statement says that the leaked emails “are intended to interfere with the U.S. election process.”
During the second presidential debate, Trump questions whether any hacking had occurred, saying “maybe there is no hacking.” He adds, “They always blame Russia, and the reason they blame Russia is because they think they are trying to tarnish me with Russia.”
Less than one month before the election, Donald Trump Jr. is paid more than $50,000 to speak at a private dinner in Paris hosted by the Center of Political and Foreign Affairs, a Kremlin-backed think tank nominated by Putin for the Nobel Peace Prize.
Sen. Reid sends another letter to FBI Director Comey about his handling of the Clinton email probe, in which he criticizes Comey for unfairly sitting on “explosive information about close ties and coordination between Trump his top advisors, and the Russian government.”
According to The Washington Post, a secret CIA assessment concludes that Russia intervened in the 2016 election with the explicit aim of helping Trump win the presidency, rather than just sowing chaos in the American electoral process. This was reported to be a “consensus” view of the intelligence community. President Obama directs the intelligence community to conduct a thorough review of what happened during the election. The Trump transition team responds with a statement that reads: “These are the same people that said Saddam Hussein had weapons of mass destruction. The election ended a long time ago in one of the biggest Electoral College victories in history. It’s now time to move on and ‘Make America Great Again.’”
The FBI and the Department of Homeland Security release a report, “GRIZZLY STEPPE — Russian Malicious Cyber Activity,” that provides technical details regarding the tools and infrastructure used by the Russian civilian and military intelligence services—known as the RIS—to compromise and exploit networks and endpoints associated with the U.S. election, as well as a range of U.S. government, political, and private-sector entities.
President Obama imposes new sanctions on Russia and ejects 35 Russian diplomats from the United States. The measures are aimed at punishing Russia’s state-sponsored political hackers and deterring further meddling in U.S. elections. Later in the day, Trump writes in a statement: “It’s time for our country to move on to bigger and better things. Nevertheless, in the interest of our country and its great people, I will meet with leaders of the intelligence community next week in order to be updated on the facts of this situation.”
Putin announces that he will not retaliate in response to the new sanctions. Trump praises Putin’s decision: “Great move on delay (by V. Putin) – I always knew he was very smart!” According to The Washington Post, Putin’s "muted response—which took [Obama administration] White House officials by surprise—raised some officials' suspicions that Moscow may have been promised a reprieve, and triggered a search by U.S. spy agencies for clues."
Trump again doubts the intelligence agencies in a news conference in Florida: “I know a lot about hacking. And hacking is a very hard thing to prove. So it could be somebody else. And I also know things that other people don’t know, and so they cannot be sure of the situation.” Trump also says he will reveal something about the hacking incidents on Tuesday or Wednesday of that week.
Trumptweets: “The ‘Intelligence’ briefing on so-called ‘Russian hacking’ was delayed until Friday, perhaps more time needed to build a case. Very strange!” NBC News reports the briefing had always been scheduled for Friday.
Trumpsides with Julian Assange and Russia over U.S. intelligence, tweeting: “Julian Assange said ‘a 14 year old could have hacked Podesta’ - why was DNC so careless? Also said Russians did not give him the info!”
The heads of the National Security Agency, FBI, CIA, and Office of the Director of National Intelligence brief Trump on the hacks for two hours in Trump Tower. The intelligence community leaders give Trump a report in which they confirm that Putin directed a vast cyberattack aimed at denying Clinton the presidency and installing him in the Oval Office. Soon after leaving the meeting, the intelligence officials release an unclassified version of the report.
In a phone interview with The New York Times three hours before the briefing, Trump calls the response to Russian hacking nothing more than a “political witch hunt” carried out by his adversaries. After the briefing, Trump releases a statement: “While Russia, China, other countries, other groups and people are constantly trying to break through the cyber infrastructure of our government institutions, businesses and organizations including the Democratic National Committee, there was no effect on the outcome of the election including the fact that there was no tampering whatsoever with voting machines.” At 11:00 that night, Trump took to Twitter, blaming Democrats for the cyberattacks: “Gross negligence by the Democratic National Committee allowed hacking to take place. The Republican National Committee had strong defense!”
Sen. Sessions, Trump’s nominee for attorney general, lies during his confirmation hearing about his contacts with Russian officials, as later reported by The Washington Post. Sessions met with Russian Ambassador Kislyak on at least two separate occasions during the campaign.
CNN reports that the intelligence community recently briefed President Obama and President-elect Trump on allegations that Russian operatives had compromising personal and financial information on Trump. The allegations were based in part on unverified memos compiled by former MI6 officerChristopher Steele , which were later published by BuzzFeed. Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskovtold reporters that the allegations that Russia tried to influence the elections were “reminiscent of a witch-hunt.”
Trump tells The Wall Street Journal that he is considering lifting sanctions on Russia. Kellyanne Conway, now a senior White House aide, reaffirms this stance two weeks later, in advance of Trump’s first official phone call with Putin.
Oleg Erovinkin—a former executive of Russian oil company Rosneft and intelligence agent for the KGB and its successor, the FSB—is found dead in the trunk of his car in Moscow. Erovinkin, described as a key liaison between Rosneft chief Igor Sechin and President Putin, was suspected of helping Christopher Steele compile his 35-page dossier.
Counselor to the President Kellyanne Conway says, “General Flynn does enjoy the full confidence of the president.” Minutes later, White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer tells reporters that Trump is “evaluating the situation” around Flynn. Later that evening, Flynn resigns.
The New York Times reports that the British and Dutch governments have evidence of additional meetings in European cities between Trump associates and Russian officials during the campaign. U.S. intelligence agencies also separately intercepted communications between Russian officials talking about their meetings with the Trump campaign. The Washington Post reports that now-Attorney General Sessions lied about his contacts with Russian officials during his confirmation hearing.
Testifying before Congress, FBI Director Comey says: “The FBI, as part of our counterintelligence mission, is investigating the Russian government’s efforts to interfere in the 2016 presidential election. That includes investigating the nature of any links between individuals associated with the Trump campaign and the Russian government, and whether there was any coordination between the campaign and Russia’s efforts.”