Saturday, April 8, 2017

A second "Man from Moscow"?

Back in March I wrote about More on the “odd” computer connection between the Russian bank and Trump organization - and a DeVos company link as well. It’s worth reviewing to set a context for new observations about events in the summer of 2016.

The FBI continues its investigation into the “odd” computer link between the Russian Alfa Bank and a mail server in Trump Tower according to this report from CNN a couple of days ago, Sources: FBI investigation continues into ‘odd’ computer link between Russian bank and Trump Organization.

That CNN report was about the the traffic between a Russian server, Alfa Bank, and a server with the name Now that was already known with details in my earlier posts on it: Evidence that Trump is The Moskovian Candidate and “What did the president know and when did he know it?”. The news in the CNN report was that additional traffic was found between the Trump server and a server registered to a company headed by Dick DeVos.

Quoting from the CNN report:

Publicly available internet records show that address, which was registered to the Trump Organization, points to an IP address that lives on an otherwise dull machine operated by a company in the tiny rural town of Lititz, Pennsylvania.

From May 4 until September 23, the Russian bank looked up the address to this Trump corporate server 2,820 times – more lookups than the Trump server received from any other source.

As noted, Alfa Bank alone represents 80% of the lookups, according to these leaked internet records.

Far back in second place, with 714 such lookups, was a company called Spectrum Health.

Spectrum is a medical facility chain led by Dick DeVos, the husband of Betsy DeVos, who was appointed by Trump as U.S. education secretary.

Together, Alfa and Spectrum accounted for 99% of the lookups.

The important facts are highlighted in bold. First, it may be coincidence that the Trump server attracted lookups almost totally from two sources - the Russian bank and the DeVos company. That is statistically unlikely. Second, all this was going on during the summer before the 2016 election. And that brings me to the question of what else was going on during that time period. Steve Benen (MSNBC/MaddowBlog) reports that the CIA knew of Russian efforts to assist in the election of Trump, CIA warned lawmakers about Russia’s pro-Trump efforts last summer.

In late-August, then-Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) raised quite a fuss with the FBI, urging federal law-enforcement officials to take the burgeoning Russia scandal seriously. In a letter to FBI Director James Comey, Reid pointed to “evidence of a direct connection between the Russian government and Donald Trump’s presidential campaign.”

As the Associated Press reported at the time, Reid said it was vital to investigate the circumstances, including any “complicit intermediaries” between the Russian government, the leakers and “any U.S. citizen.”

By and large, Reid’s concerns were overlooked – much of the political world decided that Hillary Clinton’s email server protocols were of far greater significance – but there’s new reporting that sheds fresh light on what the Democratic Senate leader knew at the time, but couldn’t publicly acknowledge. The New York Times reported overnight:

The C.I.A. told senior lawmakers in classified briefings last summer that it had information indicating that Russia was working to help elect Donald J. Trump president, a finding that did not emerge publicly until after Mr. Trump’s victory months later, former government officials say.

The briefings indicate that intelligence officials had evidence of Russia’s intentions to help Mr. Trump much earlier in the presidential campaign than previously thought…. The former officials said that in late August — 10 weeks before the election — John O. Brennan, then the C.I.A. director, was so concerned about increasing evidence of Russia’s election meddling that he began a series of urgent, individual briefings for eight top members of Congress, some of them on secure phone lines while they were on their summer break.

According to the Times’ report, the week of Reid’s letter to Comey, Brennan told the senator not only that Russia appeared to be taking steps to help the Trump campaign, but also that “unnamed advisers to Mr. Trump might be working with the Russians to interfere in the election.”

In other words, the director of the CIA indicated to the Democratic Senate leader that there may have been cooperation between Team Trump and Moscow – the very question an ongoing counter-espionage investigation is apparently trying to answer.

The same reporting pointed to Reid’s Republican counterpart playing an unconstructive role in the process.

… Obama administration officials proposed that the eight senior lawmakers write a letter to state election officials warning them of the possible threat posed by Russian hacking, officials said.

But Senator Mitch McConnell of Kentucky, the Republican majority leader, resisted, questioning the underpinnings of the intelligence, according to officials with knowledge of the discussions. Mr. McConnell ultimately agreed to a softer version of the letter, which did not mention the Russians but warned of unnamed “malefactors” who might seek to disrupt the elections through online intrusion. The letter, dated Sept. 28, was signed by Mr. McConnell, Mr. Reid, Speaker Paul D. Ryan and Representative Nancy Pelosi, the ranking Democrat.

McConnell’s role in this mess continues to be a key point of interest. Indeed, it’s not too surprising that the Senate Republican Leader was reluctant to play a productive role following the CIA’s briefing, because it wasn’t the only time.

The Washington Post reported in December that the White House, swayed by the evidence compiled by U.S. intelligence agencies, wanted bipartisan support to pushback against Russian intrusion, and in mid-September, President Obama dispatched counterterrorism adviser Lisa Monaco, FBI Director James Comey, and Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson to brief top members of Congress.

That didn’t happen, in large part because Kentucky’s senior senator refused.

Confronted with evidence of an adversary attacking our democracy to help influence the outcome of a presidential election, Mitch McConnell more than once showed no real interest.

History does not look favorably on those who intentionally put their party’s interests ahead of the nation’s.

So, the preponderance of evidence reviewed here indicates that senior lawmakers knew of the Russian attempts to swing the election to Donald Trump. Morever, they were aware of the connections to the Trump campaign. But their actions were obstructed by one person, Mitch McConnell, the very same guy who just blew up the Senate in order to put Trump’s pick on the Supreme Court.

It appears that I might have tagged the wrong guy as the Man from Moscow. Me thinks there is a second one.

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