Our days aren’t complete without the latest aside in the ongoing disaster. This time it’s a secret phone line that Trump’s son-in-law wanted to set up between Trump’s transition team and the Kremlin using Russia’s technology. Ellen Nakashima, Adam Entous, and Greg Miller for the Washington Post:
Jared Kushner and Russia’s ambassador to Washington discussed the possibility of setting up a secret and secure communications channel between Trump’s transition team and the Kremlin, using Russian diplomatic facilities in an apparent move to shield their pre-inauguration discussions from monitoring, according to U.S. officials briefed on intelligence reports.
Ambassador Sergei Kislyak reported to his superiors in Moscow that Kushner, son-in-law and confidant to then-President-elect Trump, made the proposal during a meeting on Dec. 1 or 2 at Trump Tower, according to intercepts of Russian communications that were reviewed by U.S. officials. Kislyak said Kushner suggested using Russian diplomatic facilities in the United States for the communications.
The meeting also was attended by Michael Flynn, Trump’s first national security adviser.
The Post’s Robert Costa also has the scoop on the Senate Intelligence Committee’s request for “…all documents, emails and phone records going back to his campaign’s launch…” from the Trump campaign:
The request to Trump’s political operatives represents the first time that Trump’s official campaign structure has been drawn into the Senate committee’s ongoing bipartisan investigation. That investigation is separate from the federal probe being led by the Justice Department’s special counsel, former FBI director Robert S. Mueller III.
Absolutely insane series of events.
Yesterday the Washington Post’s Greg Miller and Greg Jaffe reported that Trump gave classified information to Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov and Ambassador Sergey Kislyak in front of the Russian press during their jovial meeting at the White House:
The information the president relayed had been provided by a U.S. partner through an intelligence-sharing arrangement considered so sensitive that details have been withheld from allies and tightly restricted even within the U.S. government, officials said.
The partner had not given the United States permission to share the material with Russia, and officials said Trump’s decision to do so endangers cooperation from an ally that has access to the inner workings of the Islamic State. After Trump’s meeting, senior White House officials took steps to contain the damage, placing calls to the CIA and the National Security Agency.
“This is code-word information,” said a U.S. official familiar with the matter, using terminology that refers to one of the highest classification levels used by American spy agencies. Trump “revealed more information to the Russian ambassador than we have shared with our own allies.”
This isn’t the first time the embarrassment has mishandled classified information, but the follow-up was so flawed.
The LA Times’ Michael A. Memoli and Noah Bierman quoting the national security advisor:
McMaster said Trump “wasn’t even aware” of the source of the information and again called “the premise” of a Washington Post report that Trump had improperly shared highly classified intelligence “false.”
This morning, the embarrassment confirmed the original article:
That isn’t how that works. The president casually gave classified information to a foreign adversary in front of their state media.
The WSJ’s Shane Harris and Carol E. Lee:
Mr. Comey started receiving daily instead of weekly updates on the investigation, beginning at least three weeks ago, according to people with knowledge of the matter and the progress of the Federal Bureau of Investigation probe. Mr. Comey was concerned by information showing possible evidence of collusion, according to these people.
The collusion might be entirely overstated, but the cover-up is amazing.
David E. Sanger and Neil MacFarquhar for the Times:
Only hours after dismissing James B. Comey as director of the F.B.I., amid an investigation into the Trump campaign’s contacts with Russian officials, the president met with Russia’s foreign minister, Sergey V. Lavrov, at the White House. The Russian ambassador to the United States, Sergey I. Kislyak — best known to many Americans as the man who discussed lifting sanctions on Russia with Mr. Trump’s former national security adviser — was also in the Oval Office for the meeting.
The world’s only glimpse of this session came from the Russian news agency Tass, which distributed photos of the meeting, with a grinning Mr. Trump shaking hands with the two visitors. No reporters were allowed in to ask questions — though they were ushered in minutes later for Mr. Trump’s session with Henry A. Kissinger, the former secretary of state.
Breaking here to note how insane it is that journalists weren’t allowed to witness the meeting with Trump and the Russian kleptocrats. Very reassuring.
And, at the State Department, there was no briefing on an earlier meeting between Mr. Lavrov and Secretary of State Rex W. Tillerson. Mr. Tillerson is famously reluctant to talk with the press. So that left the field clear for Mr. Lavrov, who has now sat opposite four American secretaries of state and knows how to work the news media well, to describe the conversations.
Shaun Walker interviewed the two adult children of Russian spies who were living in the United States as Canadian citizens:
After a buffet lunch, the four returned home and opened a bottle of champagne to toast Tim reaching his third decade. The brothers were tired; they had thrown a small house party the night before to mark Alex’s return from Singapore, and Tim planned to go out later. After the champagne, he went upstairs to message his friends about the evening’s plans. There came a knock at the door, and Tim’s mother called up that his friends must have come early, as a surprise.
At the door, she was met by a different kind of surprise altogether: a team of armed, black-clad men holding a battering ram. They streamed into the house, screaming, “FBI!” Another team entered from the back; men dashed up the stairs, shouting at everyone to put their hands in the air. Upstairs, Tim had heard the knock and the shouting, and his first thought was that the police could be after him for underage drinking: nobody at the party the night before had been 21, and Boston police took alcohol regulations seriously.
When he emerged on to the landing, it became clear the FBI was here for something far more serious. The two brothers watched, stunned, as their parents were put in handcuffs and driven away in separate black cars. Tim and Alex were left behind with a number of agents, who said they needed to begin a 24-hour forensic search of the home; they had prepared a hotel room for the brothers. One of the men told them their parents had been arrested on suspicion of being “unlawful agents of a foreign government”.
Read the whole article. I can’t imagine how disconcerting it is to find out your parents really aren’t who you thought they were.