Adam Goldman, Michael S. Schmidt and Nicholas Fandos at NYT:
In the days after President Trump fired James B. Comey as F.B.I. director, law enforcement officials became so concerned by the president’s behavior that they began investigating whether he had been working on behalf of Russia against American interests, according to former law enforcement officials and others familiar with the investigation.
The inquiry carried explosive implications. Counterintelligence investigators had to consider whether the president’s own actions constituted a possible threat to national security. Agents also sought to determine whether Mr. Trump was knowingly working for Russia or had unwittingly fallen under Moscow’s influence.
The investigation the F.B.I. opened into Mr. Trump also had a criminal aspect, which has long been publicly known: whether his firing of Mr. Comey constituted obstruction of justice.
Agents and senior F.B.I. officials had grown suspicious of Mr. Trump’s ties to Russia during the 2016 campaign but held off on opening an investigation into him, the people said, in part because they were uncertain how to proceed with an inquiry of such sensitivity and magnitude. But the president’s activities before and after Mr. Comey’s firing in May 2017, particularly two instances in which Mr. Trump tied the Comey dismissal to the Russia investigation, helped prompt the counterintelligence aspect of the inquiry, the people said.Katelyn Polantz and Evan Perez at CNN::
Serhiy Lyovochkin and Rinat Akhmetov, two Ukrainian oligarchs who had paid Paul Manafort for years for his political work in their country, were the intended recipients of the American polling data that Manafort shared with Konstantin Kilimnik during the 2016 presidential campaign, a person familiar with the matter said on Wednesday.
Special counsel Robert Mueller's team has been circling Lyovochkin and Akhmetov's dealings with Manafort for a while, as they were both key, generous backers of Manafort's Ukrainian lobbying work, prosecutors said at Manafort's financial fraud trial last summer.
The Justice Department initially asked Mueller to look into the pro-Russian Ukrainians' ties to Manafort, a former Trump campaign chairman, because of how they may relate to other allegations of Russian coordination with the Trump campaign.
The sharing of the polling data with Kilimnik was revealed this week, despite being redacted in a court filing, due to a formatting error.Lorenzo Franceschi-Bicchierai at Motherboard:
The lawyers involved in the case of tax fraud convict, lobbyist for dictators, and Donald Trump’s former campaign chairman Paul Manafort started off the year on the wrong foot, and perhaps realized that yes, computers are hard.
On Tuesday, Manafort lawyers filed a response to special counsel Robert Mueller’s team’s allegation that Manafort lied to prosecutors. On page five, either Manafort’s lawyers or the Department of Justice staffers attempted to redact a sensitive passage. Unfortunately, just by copying and pasting the redacted paragraph, it was possible to read the blacked-out parts and find out new details of Manafort’s relationship with Konstantin Kilimnik, a former associate with ties to Russia. Mistakes like these have happened before, even to Facebook’s lawyers.
From the Moscow Project of the Center for American Progress:
On January 6, 2017, the U.S. intelligence community issued a report that showed there were two campaigns to elect Donald Trump: one run by Trump and one run by the Russian government. Trump and many of his senior advisors and close associates have repeatedly denied any connections between the two campaigns, despite the fact that they were working towards the same goal, at the same time, and utilizing the same tactics.
Yet over the past year, we’ve learned about a series of meetings and contacts between individuals linked to the Russian government and Trump’s campaign and transition team.
In total, we have learned of 101 contacts between Trump’s team and Russia linked operatives, including at least 28 meetings. And we know that at least 28 high-ranking campaign officials and Trump advisors were aware of contacts with Russia-linked operatives during the campaign and transition. None of these contacts were ever reported to the proper authorities. Instead, the Trump team tried to cover up every single one of them.