Trump-Russia Investigation — Who is the White House Official identified as a “Person of Interest”?

As the president has stated before – a thorough investigation will confirm that there was no collusion between the campaign and any foreign entity.”

 Sean Spicer — White House press secretary

Michael Cohen

The Washington Post has reported that investigators have identified a current White House official as a significant person of interest. The individual is described as someone who is “close to the president”. Although most people believe that this person is Jared Kushner, I believe that Michael Cohen may fit the profile. Follow us on Twitter: @INTEL_TODAY

Person of interest

“Person of interest” is a term used by U.S. law enforcement when identifying someone involved in a criminal investigation who has not been arrested or formally accused of a crime. It has no legal meaning, but refers to someone in whom the police are “interested,” either because the person is cooperating with the investigation, may have information that would assist the investigation, or possesses certain characteristics that merit further attention. [Wikipedia]

Who the person is not

Former national security adviser Michael Flynn and former campaign chairman Paul Manafort are no longer White House officials. Although, they are still investigated, neither of them can be this “person of interest”.

The usual suspects

Current administration officials who have acknowledged contacts with Russian officials include President Trump’s son-in-law, Jared Kushner, as well as Attorney General Jeff Sessions and Secretary of State Rex Tillerson. Most political observers have their money on Kushner. And indeed…

Mueller may not be able to investigate Kushner

Reuters is reporting that Mueller, by design, may not be able to investigate Kushner or Paul Manafort.

Within hours of Mueller’s appointment on Wednesday, the White House began reviewing the Code of Federal Regulations, which restricts newly hired government lawyers from investigating their prior law firm’s clients for one year after their hiring, the sources said.

An executive order signed by Trump in January extended that period to two years.

Mueller’s former law firm, WilmerHale, represents Trump’s son-in-law Jared Kushner, who met with a Russian bank executive in December, and the president’s former campaign manager Paul Manafort, who is a subject of a federal investigation.

Legal experts said the ethics rule can be waived by the Justice Department, which appointed Mueller. He did not represent Kushner or Manafort directly at his former law firm.

If the department did not grant a waiver, Mueller would be barred from investigating Kushner or Manafort, and this could greatly diminish the scope of the probe, experts said.

The Artemenko – Cohen – Sater meeting (January 27 2017)

Andrey Artemenko, a member of Ukraine’s parliament who used to be part of the country’s far-right Radical Party, said he met with Cohen and Sater at the Loews Regency New York on January 27 to discuss a proposal for solving the Russia-Ukraine conflict.

The meeting was organized by Sater –a convicted felon, known mobster and CIA/FBI informant  — who knew Cohen through his work with the Trump Organization. Sater was introduced to Artemenko by a mutual friend.

The plan they discussed involved lifting sanctions on Russia and allowing Moscow to lease Crimea for either 50 or 100 years, he said. In return, Russia would have to withdraw its support for separatists in eastern Ukraine.

Controversy erupted earlier this month after The New York Times reported that Cohen said he had “hand-delivered” the plan in a sealed envelope to Michael Flynn before Flynn was forced to resign as national security adviser over a separate Russia-related firestorm.

Cohen’s initial account largely aligned with what Artemenko and Sater said Cohen told them he would do after their meeting.

But Cohen quickly walked back his initial story, telling The Washington Post hours after the Times story was published that he hadn’t delivered the plan to Flynn or discussed it with anyone in the White House. The White House has said it has “no record” of receiving the document.

Both Artemenko and Sater have disputed Cohen’s revised account, however. Artemenko told Business Insider, and Sater has told The Post and CNN, that Cohen explicitly said he would show the plan to Flynn. The Times has stood by its reporting.

“Mr. Cohen told The Times in no uncertain terms that he delivered the Ukraine proposal to Michael Flynn’s office at the White House,” The Times’ deputy managing editor Matthew Purdy said. “Mr. Sater told The Times that Mr. Cohen had told him the same thing.”

New Development on the Michael Cohen ‘Peace Plan’ Meeting

Alex Oronov used to run a major agribusiness concern in Ukraine. Oronov was a partner in the ethanol business Cohen and Cohen’s brother Bryan set up in Ukraine about a decade ago. Oronov is Bryan Cohen’s father-in-law.

It was  Oronov who apparently organized that ‘peace plan’ meeting that brought together Ukrainian MP Artemenko, Cohen and Felix Sater.

On March 4 2017, Andrii Artemenko, the Ukrainian parliamentarian who came to New York with that ‘peace plan’, went on Facebook to announce that Alex Oronov had died.

TIMELINE

September 2011 — Flynn is promoted to Lieutenant General and assigned to the Office of the Director of National Intelligence.

April 17 2012 —President Barack Obama nominates Flynn to be the 18th director of the Defense Intelligence Agency.

2013 — As DIA chief, Flynn visited the GRU headquarters in Moscow. He was the first US officer ever allowed inside its headquarters.  A second GRU visit was planned but denied. During this trip, he meets Russian diplomat Sergey Ivanovich Kislyak for the first time.

February 2014 — Flynn meets Svetlana Lokhova at Cambridge (CIS)

April 30 2014 — Flynn ‘quits’ the Defense Intelligence Agency

October 8 2014 — a letter to Flynn from the Defense Intelligence Agency (DIA) Office of General Counsel explicitly warns Flynn, as he entered retirement, that he was prohibited by the Constitution from receiving payments from foreign sources without advance permission.

Summer 2015 –Flynn meets Trump for the first time after being invited to do so by his team

May 2016 — Flynn joins NSO Group as an “adviser”

July 15 2016 — Attempted coup in Turkey. Ankara claims Gulen, who has lived in self-imposed exile in the US since 1999, masterminded the failed putsch. Extradition requested. Turkey Coup: “CIA Plotters’ Meeting” in Büyükada

August 9 2016 — Flynn Intel Group entered into a contract with Inovo, a consulting firm based in the Netherlands. The work focused on Mr. Fethullah Gulen and charter schools in the United States that are associated with Gulen.

August 15 2016 — The Flynn – Inovo contract goes into effect.

August 15 2016 — Presidential Candidate donald Trump tweets: “I’ve got fresh evidence 13 CIA senior officers helped in Turkey Failed Coup. I will divulge the names in the coming days.” Trump and the Attempted Coup in Turkey : “13 CIA senior officers helped in Failed Coup”

August 24 2016 — U.S. Vice President Joe Biden visited Turkey. Biden made it clear that an extradition request is a legal matter, not one for the POTUS to decide.

September 9 2016 — Inovo BV Payments to Flynn Intel Group $200k

September 19 2016 — Flynn met with senior representatives of President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s government at the Essex House hotel in New York City. Extradition of Gulen discussed. The Turkish officials are Foreign Minister Mevlüt Çavuşoğlu and Energy Minister Berat Albayrak who is the son-in-law of Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan.

October [x] 2016 — Flynn Intel officials presented some of their ‘anti-Gulen’ research to the House Homeland Security Committee.

October 10 2016 — Inovo BV Payments to Flynn Intel Group $185k

November 8 2016 — Suspicions about Flynn’s ties to the Turkish government were sparked by an op-ed he wrote in the Hill. Flynn calls Gulen ‘shady’ and endorses his extradition.

November 10 2016 — Mike Flynn calling for the extradition of Gulen

November 10, 2016 — Obama warned Trump about Flynn during their Oval Office meeting

November 15 2016 — Inovo BV Payments to Flynn Intel Group $145k

November 17 2016 — President-elect Trump intends to pick Lt. Gen. Michael Flynn to be his National Security Advisor

November 18 2016 — Flynn becomes Trump’s NSA

November  30 2016 —The Justice Department notified Mr. Flynn that it was scrutinizing his lobbying work (Turkey)

December 17 2016 — Three experts — including former MI6 chief Sir Richard Dearlove — unexpectedly resigned from their positions at the Cambridge Intelligence Seminar (CIS), amid concerns that the Kremlin is behind a newly-established intelligence journal, which provides funding for CIS.

December — [Date unknown but Slate places it “some time before the two events of Dec. 29th.”]  Jared Kushner and Michael T. Flynn had a previously undisclosed meeting with the Russian ambassador in December to “establish a line of communication” between the new administration and the Russian government.  NYT

December 28 2016 — Flynn sends text message to Russia Amb. Kislyak to wish him a Merry Christmas.

December 28 2016 — Russia Amb. Kislyak  replies asking if they can talk on the phone?

December 29 2016 — US expels Russian diplomats over cyber attack allegations. The Obama administration said the GRU is responsible for the DNC hack.

December 29 2016 — Flynn and Russia Amb. Kislyak  phone calls (5?). US sanctions are discussed.

December 30 2016 — Putin announced that he would not retaliate. Trump praised Putin for the decision, writing in a Twitter post, “Great move on delay (by V.Putin). I always knew he was very smart!”

January 4 2017 —Flynn told Trump  transition team’s chief lawyer Donald F. McGahn II he was under federal investigation for secretly working as a paid lobbyist for Turkey

January 5 2017 — “Effective immediately, Ambassador Woolsey is no longer a Senior Advisor to President-Elect Trump or the Transition.”Woolsey said on CNN that he did not want to “fly under false colors” any longer.

January 24 2017 — Mike Flynn interviewed by the FBI (At the White House; No lawyer)

January 24 2017 —Sally Yates, the former acting attorney general, again raised the issue with FBI Comey, who now backed away from his opposition to informing the White House.

January 26 2017 — Yates and a senior career national security official spoke to McGahn, the White House counsel. Yates tells the White House counsel that Flynn is vulnerable to blackmail by Russian intelligence.Yates  considered Flynn’s comments in the intercepted call with Russia Amb. Kislyak  to be “highly significant” and “potentially illegal”

January 27 2017 — Yates and McGahn second meeting. McGahn wants to know 4 Things. Why the DOJ cares? Is there a criminal case? Could the White House decision be interpreted as interference? What and where is the evidence against Flynn?

January 27 2017 — Michael Cohen, Andrii Artemenko, and Trump business associate Felix Sater meet at the Loews Regency Hotel in Manhattan to discuss a Ukraine “peace plan” that would lift international sanctions on Russia and “lease” Crimea to Russia in exchange for the withdrawal of Russian forces from eastern Ukraine.

January 27 2017 — Trump invites Comey for dinner. Trump requests “pledge of loyalty”.

January 30 2017 — Sally Yates  dismissed by President Trump

February 13 2017 — (Monday night) National Security Adviser Mike Flynn resigns

February 14 2017 — Trump asks Comey to drop the investigation on Flynn

March 2 2017 — The White House reveals that Jared Kushner and Michael T. Flynn had a previously undisclosed meeting with the Russian ambassador in December to “establish a line of communication” between the new administration and the Russian government. NYT

March 8 2017 — Flynn Intel Group Inc filed retroactive documents with the Department of Justice to register as a foreign agent.

March 20 2017 —In testimony before the House Intelligence Committee, Comey confirmed that the FBI has been investigating possible coordination between the Trump campaign and Russia

March 24 2017 — WSJ breaks the news of the September 19 meeting (Woolsey). The meeting was however mentioned in the documents filed on March 8 2017.

March 25 2017 — Julliette Kayyem (CNN) suggests Flynn made a deal with the FBI

May 3 2017 —In testimony before the Senate Judiciary Committee, Comey said that Russia is the “greatest threat of any nation on Earth … One of the biggest lessons learned is that Russia will do this again. Because of 2016 election, they know it worked.” He also said that Russia should pay a price for interfering

May 9 2017 — CNN reported that a grand jury had begun issuing subpoenas to associates of Michael Flynn

May 9 2017 — Comey is dismissed by President Trump

May 10 2017 —The Senate Intelligence Committee  issued a subpoena to Mike Flynn

May 11 2017 — Comey had been scheduled to testify before the Senate Intelligence Committee on May 11, but after he was dismissed on May 9, committee chair Senator Richard Burr said that Acting FBI Director Andrew McCabe would appear instead.

May 16 2017 — Memos reveal Trump asked FBI Comey to drop Flynn investigation

May 17 2017 — Robert Mueller appointed special Prosecutor

May 19 2017 — White House senior official identified as “person of interest”

WH adviser is reportedly person of interest in Russia probe

REFERENCES

Russia probe reaches current White House official, people familiar with the case say — WP May 19 2017

Kushner and Flynn Met With Russian Envoy in December, White House Says — NYT March 2 2017

Lawmaker: ‘I got confirmation’ my Russia-Ukraine plan was delivered to White House, despite what Trump lawyer says — Business Insider

New Development on the Michael Cohen ‘Peace Plan’ Meeting — TPM

The Kushner-Comey Connection — emptywheel
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Trump-Russia Investigation — Who is the White House Official identified as a “Person of Interest”?

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