The Trump administration is moving toward handing back to Russia two diplomatic compounds, near New York City and on Maryland’s Eastern Shore, that its officials were ejected from in late December as punishment for Moscow’s interference in the 2016 presidential election.
President Barack Obama said Dec. 29 that the compounds were being “used by Russian personnel for intelligence-related purposes” and gave Russia 24 hours to vacate them. Separately, Obama expelled from the United States what he said were 35 Russian “intelligence operatives.”
Early last month, the Trump administration told the Russians that it would consider turning the properties back over to them if Moscow would lift its freeze, imposed in 2014 in retaliation for U.S. sanctions related to Ukraine, on construction of a new U.S. consulate on a certain parcel of land in St. Petersburg.
Two days later, the U.S. position changed. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson told Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov and Russian Ambassador Sergey Kislyak at a meeting in Washington that the United States had dropped any linkage between the compounds and the consulate, according to several people with knowledge of the exchanges.
Last week the Russian Embassy's Twitter account retweeted a Sputnik article calling for the US to return those two compounds or face consequences. Looks like manly man Trump caved in order to give his real boss a nice present.
And speaking of Russian bosses, Attorney General Jeff Session has once again been caught perjuring himself with evidence of yet another clandestine meeting between him and Russian Ambassador Sergei Kislyak
that Sessions failed to disclose to Congress.
Congressional investigators are examining whether Attorney General Jeff Sessions had an additional private meeting with Russia's ambassador during the presidential campaign, according to Republican and Democratic Hill sources and intelligence officials briefed on the investigation.
Investigators on the Hill are requesting additional information, including schedules from Sessions, a source with knowledge tells CNN. They are focusing on whether such a meeting took place April 27, 2016, at the Mayflower Hotel in Washington, DC, where then-candidate Donald Trump was delivering his first major foreign policy address. Prior to the speech, then-Sen. Sessions and Russian Ambassador Sergey Kislyak attended a small VIP reception with organizers, diplomats and others.
In addition to congressional investigators, the FBI is seeking to determine the extent of interactions the Trump campaign team may have had with Russia's ambassador during the event as part of its broader counterintelligence investigation of Russian interference in the election.
Once again Sessions lied to Congress under oath, but he's still allowed to be Attorney General. Fun times.
On the congressional side of the investigation, the House is finally issuing subpoenas to those involved in the Russia investigation
...but also to former Obama administration officials over "unmasking" these names as Republicans still blame the previous administration for all this.
A political feud erupted on Wednesday over the U.S. House Intelligence Committee's probe of suspected Russian meddling in the 2016 presidential election, with charges that the panel's Republican chairman subpoenaed the CIA, FBI and National Security Agency without telling Democratic members.
Committee aides complained that the chairman, Representative Devin Nunes, who publicly recused himself from leading the Russia probe in April following a secret visit he paid to White House officials, failed to consult Democrats on the subpoenas.
The subpoenas asked the agencies to provide details of any requests made by two top Obama administration aides and the former CIA director to "unmask" names of Trump campaign advisers inadvertently picked up in top-secret foreign communications intercepts, congressional sources said.
The former officials named in the subpoenas were Obama national security adviser Susan Rice, former U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Samantha Power and former CIA Director John Brennan.
"Subpoenas related to the 'unmasking' issue would have been sent by Chairman Nunes acting separately from the committee's Russia investigation. This action would have been taken without the minority's (Democrats') agreement," said a senior committee aide, speaking on condition of anonymity.
Another congressional source, who also requested anonymity, said Democrats were "informed and consulted" before the subpoenas were issued.
Former Trump National Security Adviser Mike Flynn and Trump's personal lawyer, Michael Cohen were issued subpoenas, but so have former Obama National Security Adviser Susan Rice, Obama's CIA Director John Brennan, and Obama's UN Ambassador Samantha Power.
In other words, the House GOP wants to dump as much of this on "Obama leakers" as they can to distract from Trump's possible crimes.
But in the Senate, the hammer may drop as early as this time next week as fired FBI Director James Comey is expected to testify publicly
Fired FBI director James Comey plans to testify publicly in the Senate as early as next week to confirm bombshell accusations that President Donald Trump pressured him to end his investigation into a top Trump aide's ties to Russia, a source close to the issue said Wednesday.
Final details are still being worked out and no official date for his testimony has been set. Comey is expected to appear before the Senate Intelligence Committee, which is investigating possible connections between the Trump campaign and Russia during last year's presidential election.
Comey has spoken privately with Special Counsel Robert Mueller III to work out the parameters for his testimony to ensure there are no legal entanglements as a result of his public account, a source said. Comey will likely sit down with Mueller, a longtime colleague at the Justice Department, for a formal interview only after his public testimony.
When he testifies, Comey is unlikely to be willing to discuss in any detail the FBI's investigation into the charges of possible collusion between Russia and the Trump campaign -- the centerpiece of the probe, this source said. But he appears eager to discuss his tense interactions with Trump before his firing, which have now spurred allegations that the president may have tried to obstruct the investigation.
This of course explains the House move to put Rice, Brennan and Power under oath. I would expect it to happen the same day or the day after Comey testifies.