The Washington Post reports, Donald Trump’s former campaign manager is set to make his first appearance in Alexandria federal court Thursday, where he faces tax and fraud charges brought by the special counsel investigating Russian interference in the 2016 election.” The Washington Post adds, “Paul J. Manafort last week pleaded not guilty in a related case in Washington, D.C., where he is set to go to trial Sept. 17. He was indicted in Virginia, where he lives, the week prior.”

From The Washington Post.



NBC News reports, “Former Trump Campaign Manager Corey Lewandowski is scheduled to appear before the committee on Thursday.”

From NBC News.





The Guardian reports, “The former Russian spy Sergei Skripal and his daughter Yulia were deliberately poisoned with a nerve agent in a case that is now being treated as attempted murder, the police counter-terrorism chief has said.” The Guardian adds, “Scotland Yard assistant chief commissioner Mark Rowley said the police officer who was first to the spot where Skripal was found in Salisbury on Sunday afternoon was ‘seriously ill’ in hospital. His condition had deteriorated, Rowley said, adding: ‘Wiltshire police are providing full support to his family.’ Describing the poisoning as a major incident, Rowley said scientists had identified the substance used. He refused to reveal what the specific poison was.” The Guardian adds, “An unidentified man and a woman spotted strolling in the alleyway close to the bench where Skripal was poisoned are likely to be of intense police interest. The woman has blond hair and was holding a large scarlet bag. CCTV captured them around the time Skripal collapsed.”

From The Guardian.



The Telegraph reports, “A security consultant who has worked for the company that compiled the controversial dossier on Donald Trump was close to the Russian double agent poisoned last weekend, it has been claimed. The consultant, who The Telegraph is declining to identify, lived close to Col Skripal and is understood to have known him for some time.” The Telegraph adds, “Col Skripal, who is in intensive care and fighting for his life after an assassination attempt on Sunday, was recruited by MI6 when he worked for the British embassy in Estonia, according to the FSB, the Russian intelligence agency.” We are approaching hell, which puts us closer to the other side of hell as we must first transverse hell to get there. (More in KNOW YOUR ENEMY.)

From The Telegraph.



The New York Times reports, “The special counsel in the Russia investigation has learned of two conversations in recent months in which President Trump asked key witnesses about matters they discussed with investigators”. The New York Times notes, “In one episode, the president told an aide that the White House counsel, Donald F. McGahn II, should issue a statement denying a New York Times article in January. The article said Mr. McGahn told investigators that the president once asked him to fire the special counsel, Robert S. Mueller III. Mr. McGahn never released a statement and later had to remind the president that he had indeed asked Mr. McGahn to see that Mr. Mueller was dismissed”. Additionally, “In the other episode, Mr. Trump asked his former chief of staff, Reince Priebus, how his interview had gone with the special counsel’s investigators and whether they had been ‘nice,’” The New York Times notes. Of course, “even as the special counsel investigation appears to be intensifying, the president has ignored his lawyers’ advice to avoid doing anything publicly or privately that could create the appearance of interfering with it.”

From The New York Times.



The Washington Post reports, “Special counsel Robert S. Mueller III has gathered evidence that a secret meeting in the Seychelles just before the inauguration of Donald Trump was an effort to establish a back-channel between the incoming administration and the Kremlin — apparently contradicting statements made to lawmakers by one of its participants.” The Washington Post recalls, “In January, 2016, Erik Prince, the founder of the private military company Blackwater, met with a Russian official close to President Vladi­mir Putin, and later described the meeting to congressional investigators as a chance encounter that was not a planned discussion of U.S.-Russia relations. A witness cooperating with Mueller has told investigators the meeting was set up in advance so that a representative of the Trump transition could meet with an emissary from Moscow to discuss future relations between the two countries”. The Washington Post reports, “George Nader, a Lebanese-American business who helped organize and attended the Seychelles meeting, has testified on the matter before a grand jury gathering evidence about discussions between the Trump transition team and emissaries of the Kremlin, as part of Mueller’s investigation into Russian efforts to interfere with the 2016 election.” The Washington Post recalls, “Last year, Prince told lawmakers — and the press — that his Seychelles meeting with Kirill Dmitriev, the head of a Russian government-controlled wealth fund, was an unplanned, unimportant encounter that came about by chance because he happened to be at a luxury hotel in the Indian Ocean island nation with officials from the United Arab Emirates.” According to Prince, “The two men, he said, spoke for no more than 30 minutes, or about the time it took him to drink a beer.” Furthermore, “Prince said he went to the Seychelles as a private businessman, not as an official or unofficial emissary from the Trump transition team. During the congressional interview, which got testy at times as Democratic lawmakers pressed him to be more specific in his answers, Prince repeatedly complained that he had reason to believe U.S. intelligence agencies were leaking information about his activities.” CNN adds, “The founder of the security firm Blackwater did not mention to the House Intelligence Committee last year that a Lebanese-American businessman had attended a meeting in the Seychelles islands, a trip that has come under intense scrutiny in the Russia investigation”.

From The Washington Post and CNN.



NBC News reports, “Hope Hicks told the House Intelligence Committee last week that one of her email accounts was hacked”. NBC News adds, “Hicks indicated that she could no longer access two accounts: One she used as a member of President Donald Trump’s campaign team and a personal account”. According to NBC News, “Hicks, who portrayed herself as not savvy in matters of technology, told lawmakers that one of the accounts was hacked,” but, “It is unclear if Hicks was referring to a campaign or personal account.”

From NBC News.



The AP reports, “They could have run into each other sipping coffee in the lobby, perhaps at the bar at Ethiopia’s finest hotel. But U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson and Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov didn’t meet, and now both countries are trading accusations about who’s to blame.” Like grown adults, “The top American and Russian diplomats warily circled each other in Africa,” or more accurately Ethiopia, “where both are paying official visits this week. As their two countries trade accusations over Syria, Ukraine and even the Oscars, their governments are trolling each other with barbs on social media. Russia said that both Tillerson and Lavrov were staying at the lush Sheraton Addis resort while in Ethiopia, where Tillerson met Thursday with the country’s outgoing prime minister and with the African Union Commission’s chairman.” But supposedly they did not meet even for a back rub or a sauna or a tickle fight? The AP notes, “It was unclear how long the two overlapped in the Ethiopian capital. Tillerson arrived on Wednesday afternoon. Lavrov departed sometime Wednesday and arrived late at night at his next stop in Harare, Zimbabwe.” The AP asks, “So whose decision was it to forego a tete-a-tete?” Well, “Russia for days had been calling publicly for a meeting, and accused Washington of failing to respond to its request.” Sad! However, “Not so, the United States insisted. State Department spokeswoman Heather Nauert said this week that the U.S. had received no request from Russia’s government for a meeting with Tillerson and had ‘no meeting to announce at this time,’” the AP notes.

From the AP.



The Daily Beast reports, “After a long public silence, the Internet giant Reddit has finally acknowledged the presence of Russian propaganda on its platform—and indicated it’s working with the Congressional probes into Russia’s 2016 election interference.” And despite guarantees by the CEO that the site has long been at work at the problem, surprise! Now, “The Daily Beast has learned that the cooperation Reddit is providing is, at most, precursory. Knowledgeable sources tell The Daily Beast that Reddit has not, for instance, produced any documents to the House or Senate committees shedding light on how Russian propaganda hijacked a site that bills itself as the ‘front page of the internet.’” Looks like just as in politics and real life that everyone will lie to save their ass or try and buy their way out of trouble unless they are poor, in which case in our society they are fucked anyways because being poor is expensive. But our tech saviors of yesteryear are not poor, not at all.

From The Daily Beast.


Estonian Public Broadcasting
reports, “Minister of Defence Jüri Luik (IRL) met with U.S. Secretary of Defense James Mattis in Washington on Wednesday, where the two focused primarily on matters related to NATO and the threats the alliance must face.” Mattis said, “Russia is trying to change international borders by force and achieve veto rights in European countries’ diplomatic, economic and security decisions, and as NATO Secretary General [Jens] Stoltenberg said last Monday, NATO does not want a new Cold War, but we will respond, as we are seeing a more robust Russia”.

From Estonian Public Broadcasting.



Ukrinform reports, “Russia’s ground forces are positioned east and north of the Ukrainian border so as to launch a large-scale offensive, however, the Baltic states are also under the threat of hybrid aggression. This is stated in report published by analysts from the Institute for the Study of War (ISW)”. According to the report, “The Russian military is well-positioned to launch a conventional war in Ukraine and a hybrid war in the Baltic states, the opposite of what Western leaders seem to be expecting in each theater”. Ukrinform adds, “At the same time, the report notes that U.S. leaders and their European allies are not yet prepared for the ways in which Russian President Vladimir Putin is poised to wage war in Ukraine and the Baltic. NATO leaders increasingly warn of the threat of a conventional invasion of the Baltic States (or even Western Europe).”

From Ukrinform.



Bloomberg reports, “A Russian-backed company involved in a decade-long drama that touched the highest levels of the U.S. and Russian governments has finally agreed with the U.S. on how to pay a multimillion dollar settlement of a U.S. lawsuit. Prevezon Holdings Ltd. will make good on its $6 million obligation using escrowed funds from the seizure and sale of New York apartments, according to a filing Wednesday in Manhattan federal court. The amount had grown from $5.9 million when the company reached a deal last year with U.S. prosecutors.” Bloomberg recalls, “The dispute stemmed from $230 million in stolen Russian tax funds that were laundered out of the country and placed in bank accounts and other assets around the world, including a handful of New York luxury apartments.” It is the U.S. case at the center of the Magnitsky Act and the unfolding reality TV drama of the fake Russian bullshit president of Trumpistan as, “One of Prevezon’s Russian lawyers is Natalia Veselnitskaya, who met with Trump’s son during the 2016 election in a meeting at Trump Tower that was sold as an opportunity for the campaign to get dirt from Russia on Hillary Clinton.”

From Bloomberg.





POLITICO reports, “Months of conservative attacks on special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation may be taking a toll on his public image, according to a new Morning Consult/POLITICO poll.” Incredibly, “Mueller’s unfavorable rating among Republicans is at 41 percent in the latest Morning Consult/POLITICO survey, up from 27 percent in midsummer. His favorability has remained fairly constant among Republicans — at 23 percent in the new poll versus 22 percent last summer.” So at least one in five of those still willing to call themselves Republicans have a modicum of integrity, let’s start there with rebuilding, which we must do even as it all burns.




Meduza looks at the Sergey Skripal’s case and notes, “For a secret spy saga, there’s actually quite a bit we know about his case.” Meduza begins, “Having worked for Russia’s Military Intelligence Directorate (GRU) since the Soviet era, Sergey Skripal was recruited in 1995 by the British agent Pablo Miller, who at the time was posing as Antonio Alvarez de Hidalgo and working in Britain’s embassy in Tallinn. Russia’s Federal Security Service says Miller was actually an undercover MI6 agent tasked with recruiting Russians. The first reports about Miller’s work in Russia emerged in the early 2000s, after multiple Russians arrested for spying fingered Miller as their recruiter.” According to Meduza, “Nikolai Luzan, who calls himself a colonel and a veteran of Russia’s security agencies, wrote a detailed book about how the British recruited Sergey Skripal. Luzan says his book, ‘A Devil’s Counterintelligence Dozen,’ is an ‘artistic-documentary production. If we assume that Luzan’s account is generally accurate, then Skripal was recruited during a long-term assignment in Malta and Spain, where he ‘got greedy.’ On this trip, Skripal befriended a Spanish man with the surname Luis, and the two started their own wine-import business in secret from Russia’s Military Intelligence Directorate. Luis later introduced Skripal to Antonio Alvarez de Hidalgo, the British recruiter Pablo Miller’s alter ego. At first, Miller pretended to be another entrepreneur, inviting Skripal to go into business with him. According to Luzan, he once took Skripal to a strip club, but the Russian military intelligence colonel soon ran home to his wife.” Meduza adds, “In the end, Skripal and Miller came to an agreement: in exchange for money, Skripal provided information to the British about at least 300 of his colleagues in Russian intelligence. In 1999, he retired from the GRU for health reasons, but he soon traveled abroad and reconnected with Miller. Skripal agreed to spy again for Britain, and he got to work compiling data about the GRU’s inner structures. He often traveled to the Turkish city of Izmir, where he met British agents posing as tourists. On these trips, Skripal brought his wife, who apparently didn’t know anything about the nature of his activities.” Citing reports in Russian state-run Tass, Meduza adds, “after Skripal resigned from the GRU, he took a position in the Russian Foreign Ministry’s General Affairs Department, stepping down in 2003. In December the next year, he was arrested.” Meduza notes, “It’s unclear why Skripal decided to resettle specifically in Salisbury, but LinkedIn indicates that Pablo Miller — the MI6 agent who recruited him — lives in the same town.”

From Meduza.



USA Today reports, “The tiny country of Latvia can teach the United States a few things about how to counter Russian meddling in politics.” Latvia is not tiny, it is very big in our hearts. USA Today notes, “One important lesson from Russian efforts to exacerbate ethnic conflict, spread disinformation and possibly compromise Latvian officials is that Russian methods keep changing, according to advice from Latvian Foreign Minister Edgars Rinkēvičs,” adding, “Rinkēvičs was in Washington for meetings to prepare for an April 3 summit with President Trump and the presidents of Latvia, Lithuania and Estonia.” That should be interesting, if not disturbing, as per standard operating procedure now with our fake Russian bullshit president and all things concerning geopolitical security. Rinkēvičs added, “One remedy is to build strong partnerships between government and the social media industry to close down automated accounts that spread false stories and to expose the funding source for political ads and smear campaigns”. Since we live in free speech societies, “Everybody has a right to know this is fake information and who is behind spreading it,” Rinkēvičs said. USA Today adds, “When someone created a Web page for a ‘People’s Republic of Latgale,’ named for an eastern region of Latvia, and invented a flag for it, Latvian law enforcement officials stepped in, Rinkēvičs said. ‘It was investigated as fake and it stopped,’ but not before The New York Times and others wrote about the supposed separatist movement as real, he said.” Of note concerning the contemporary situation, “Rinkēvičs questioned whether Russia is behind a recent political scandal involving the president of Latvia’s Central Bank, Ilmars Rimsevics, as his country prepares for its October election. Latvian police detained and questioned Rimsevics on Feb. 17 in connection to a bribery case, a fishing trip in Russia and American allegations that a Latvian bank violated sanctions on North Korea,” USA Today adds.

From USA Today.





The Wall Street Journal reports Russian “Operators used social media to pitch fake business directories, petitions in return for information,” sort of like nasty domestic data collectors do, too, because it’s not against the law because Congress will not protect our data as Europe has. So it goes there are stories like, “All the Facebook account Black4Black asked for was some personal information about Ajah Hales and other Cleveland-area small-business owners. In exchange, she was told her cosmetics company, and her fellow African-American entrepreneurs, would receive free promotion on social media and in a new and influential directory of black-owned businesses,” but of course it was a Russian ploy or else you would not be reading about it here. Do not give your information out over the phone or to unknown sites online, those days are over and now fascism and foreign occupation are here. Beware.

From The Wall Street Journal.



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