Was Donald J. Trump Aware of Russian Interference?

Russia

NBC just released an exclusive breaking news report. Special Counsel Robert Mueller is asking witnesses if President Donald J. Trump was aware that Democratic emails were stolen before the information was made public. Mueller is also asking if the president was involved in the release of the emails.

Roger Stone, WikiLeaks, and Julian Assange

The team of investigators are asking witnesses if Trump was aware that Hillary Clinton’s stolen emails were going to be released by WikiLeaks. Since The Atlantic released that GOP operative Roger Stone was talking to the founder of WikiLeaks, Mueller has been questioning the relationship between Stone and Julian Assange, and why Trump established favorable policy positions toward Russia.

Although looks can be deceiving, it appears there is some sort of collusion between Trump and Russia directly, not just with his campaign members. NBC reported that it appears the Mueller investigation is probing into the coordination between WikiLeaks and the Trump campaign in dispersing the stolen emails.

Some of the questions have focused on the public comments made by Trump in July 2016, when he asked Russia to find the emails deleted by his opponent in the election. The comments were made a news conference on July 27, and days later, WikiLeaks published the emails.

Witnesses have been asked if the president knew, when he made that comment, that John Podesta, Clinton’s campaign chairman, had been targeted. The question has also been asked if Trump was told to make the following statement: “Russia, if you’re listening, I hope you’re able to find the 30,000 emails that are missing.”

According to witnesses, there have also been questions about Trump’s relationship with Stone. Investigators want to know if there was some sort of plot with Russia. George Papadopoulos said that in April 2016, he was told that Russia had “dirt on Clinton in the form of thousands of emails.”

In the last month of the 2016 presidential campaign, Stone inferred that he was aware of the information the Russians had before it was made public on WikiLeaks. In that same month, Trump mentioned WikiLeaks 145 times and praised them. Nevertheless, Mike Pompeo, the director of the CIA, referred to the group as a “hostile non-state actor,” in 2017.

Stone asserts that he did not communicate with Assange, the founder of WikiLeaks. He used an intermediary that he claims was a journalist. After The Atlantic reported that Stone had direct conversations with WikiLeaks on Twitter, Adam Schiff suggested the House Intelligence Committee subpoena Twitter for the direct messages between Stone and WikiLeaks and any others pertinent to the Russia probe. However, Schiff stated that Twitter told the Committee it would not produce the messages without compulsion.

Mueller’s investigators have asked witnesses if Stone has met with Assange in person. Stone denied any direct communication with WikiLeaks. He was a part of the Trump campaign in 2015. In August, he said he quit. However, the team said he was fired. Witnesses were asked about Stone’s time on the campaign and what his relationship was with Trump after he left. The line of questioning was described as “Who fired Stone?” “Was he really fired?” “How often did he talk to Trump?”

In a written statement Stone stated that he had not been questioned by Mueller’s team, discussed WikiLeaks, Assange or any Clinton disclosures at any time. Stone added that he did not know if Trump knew about any of it, and he concluded that he did not meet Assange.

In September, Stone was questioned by the House Intelligence Committee for four hours. In his statement, which was delivered on InfoWars’ YouTube Channel, Stone denied any illegal activity, having direct communication with Assange, and called exchanges with Guccifer 2.0 “innocuous.” Guccifer 2.0 took credit for hacking the Democratic National Committee.

Did Trump Meet Vladimir Putin Before his Presidency?

Investigators want to know if Trump ever met Vladimir Putin in person, before he became president. Why did he take positions on policies that favored Russia? Why was Trump considering lifting the sanctions off Russia after the annexation of Crimea?

Witnesses were asked about Trump’s business interests in Moscow. This line of questioning led at least one witness to believe the Mueller investigation has some focus on business dealings that occurred during his campaign for president.

Some witnesses were asked about any connections between Paul Manafort and Stone. Someone was also asked about Dan Scavino and his involvement with data operations for the campaign. Currently, he is the head of media operations at the White House. He is also one of the closest aides to Trump.

Putin’s Response to Allegations

Russian President Vladimir Putin told Megyn Kelly that he will “never” extradite the 13 Russian nationals charged by Mueller with conspiring to interfere with the 2016 presidential election.

Putin asserts that those charged were not representing the Russian state. He stated that he did not know specifically what they had done or what guided them. He has not asked either. Putin said it was because a report had not been made with his foreign minister.

The Office of the Special Counsel charged 13 Russian nationals and three Russian companies, in February 2018, with using a disinformation campaign on social media to spread fake news and create discord during and after the election. It is believed this was an effort to help the Trump camp.

The indictment painted a detailed picture of how the plot was carried out, including locations, dates, and names. Mueller is continuing to build a criminal case against all Russians involved in hacking the Democratic National Committee during the summer of 2016, as well as the release of the stolen files.

Putin asserts that the cyberattacks and disinformation campaign were not ordered by the Kremlin. He has no knowledge of these acts. If the people were from Russia, they were not acting for the country.

The Russian president takes pride in a practice of hacking from a “brand of information warfare, known as ‘dezinformatsiya’.” A strategy used since the Cold War. This is just one strategy used to cause discord between nations Russia considers hostile.

According to the CEO of CYR3CON, a cybersecurity threat company, Paulo Shakarian stated that the Russian government prefers to use “cyber proxies” or hackers and criminal groups that “operate outside the government.” This strategy allows Putin to utilize the underground Russian hacking community while maintaining plausible deniability.

Putin believes that the best way to “influence the informational battlefield” is cyberwar. The Russians use cyberwarfare to assert informational goals, such as shaping an election.

In an interview, Putin told Kelly that he has not received any documentation or evidence to evaluate if Russian nationals were involved in the hacking of the Democratic National Committee or the release of the stolen emails to WikiLeaks.

Even if Putin were to find the 13 Russian nationals guilty, they will not be extradited to the United States. Russian does not extradite to any country, just like the United States does not. Nevertheless, Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein said the Department of Justice is negotiating with Russia over extradition proceedings.

By Jeanette Smith

Sources:

NBC News: Mueller asking if Trump knew about hacked Democratic emails before
release
Business Insider: Putin doubled down on a familiar and misleading claim when he explained why he’ll ‘never’ extradite the Russians charged in the Mueller investigation

Image Courtesy of Christiaan Colen’s Flickr Page – Creative Commons License