The Russia watchTrump targets: organized crime experts; John McCain & Vladimir Putin; oligarchs & informants, and more

Published 4 September 2018

·  America needs to face ongoing Russian assault on democracy

·  What Senator John McCain knew about Russia

·  Meet PoppinKREAM, the Reddit power user fighting a one-person battle for a fact-based internet

·  How the Kremlin used Skype to run a Baltic disinformation campaign

·  Trump’s top targets in the Russia probe are experts in organized crime

·  The real reason Russia is rooting for Republicans in the midterms

·  FBI tried to turn Kremlin-linked Russian oligarch into informant

·  Papadopoulos’ lawyers: Trump “nodded in approval” at Putin meeting proposal

·  The Russia investigation after Jeff Sessions

·  Putin is sneaking up on Europe from the South

·  State Department team fighting Russia election interference still waits for funds

What Senator John McCain knew about Russia (Daniel Hoffman, Cipher Brief)
For those who knew him, it is no surprise that the late Senator John McCain approached the national and global security threats posed by Russia with a confident clarity in what he felt needed to be done.  As with all things, when it came to Russia, he did not hold back.  The Cipher Brief’s Brad Christian spoke with former CIA Chief of Station Dan Hoffman about the Senator’s stance on Russia.  He started by asking Hoffman to describe McCain’s overall position.

America needs to face ongoing Russian assault on democracy (Michael Carpenter, The Hill)
National security adviser John Bolton recently said there is a “concern about Chinese meddling, Iranian meddling and North Korean meddling” in the American midterm elections, noting the administration was “taking steps to try and prevent it.” President Trump also tweeted in the same vein, “All of the fools that are so focused on looking only at Russia should start also looking in another direction, China.”
The administration’s motive for emphasizing election meddling by countries other than Russia would seem to be to shift attention away from Moscow’s ongoing efforts to interfere in our democratic process. President Trump has consistently downplayed or dismissed these efforts and repeatedly decried the special counsel investigation of Russian influence operations as a “witch hunt.”
But the administration cannot deny that Russia continues to try to subvert our democracy.

Meet PoppinKREAM, the Reddit power user fighting a one-person battle for a fact-based internet (Justin Peters, Slate)
Since the start of the Mueller investigation, this anonymous poster has made a mission of delivering evidence-based analysis. It’s paid off in popularity.

How the Kremlin used Skype to run a Baltic disinformation campaign (Coda Story) A trove of Skype messaging chats between an employee of a Russian state media company and a Russian citizen based in the Baltic states has provided a rare window on how the Kremlin funds and controls its efforts to influence public opinion abroad. The conversations were obtained as part of a joint investigation by regional and international media groups into three websites that were purportedly offering independent coverage of the Baltic region but which were actually funded by the Russian government.

Trump’s top targets in the Russia probe are experts in organized crime (Natasha Bertrand, The Atlantic)
Some of President Trump’s favorite targets in the Russia probe have spent their careers in the Justice Department and the FBI investigating organized crime and money laundering, particularly as they pertain to Russia.

The real reason Russia is rooting for Republicans in the midterms (Julia Davis, Daily Beast)
State-controlled media joke about abetting Trump and believe his tough talk on sanctions is just a ploy. If the Republicans win the midterms, they say, he’ll come around.

FBI tried to turn Kremlin-linked Russian oligarch into informant (Kenneth P. Vogel and Matthew Rosenberg, New York Times)
The FBI and Justice Department attempted unsuccessfully to turn Russian oligarch Oleg Deripaska into an informant between 2014 and 2016, The New York Times reports. Sources cited by the Times said the failed mission was part of a larger effort to gauge the feasibility of flipping several of Russia’s richest men, most of whom have close ties to Vladimir Putin.

Papadopoulos’ lawyers: Trump “nodded in approval” at Putin meeting proposal (Chris Geidner, BuzzFeed News)
George Papadopoulos, the former Trump campaign adviser convicted of lying to the FBI during the Russia investigation, has said both President Trump and Attorney General Jeff Sessions supported his idea to meet with Russia’s Vladimir Putin during the 2016 campaign. In court documents filed late Friday, Papadopoulos’ lawyers appeared to directly contradict Sessions’ own sworn testimony to Congress about the suggested Putin summit.

The Russia investigation after Jeff Sessions (Matt Ford, New Republic)
What can the Senate do if Trump fires the attorney general? The Nixon era provides a roadmap.

Putin is sneaking up on Europe from the South (Steven A. Cook, Foreign Policy)
The Kremlin understands that the best way to undermine the West is through its soft underbelly—the Middle East.

State Department team fighting Russia election interference still waits for funds (Lauren Weber, Huff Post)
The money Congress allocated hasn’t reached the unit and the end of the fiscal year is only a month away.