October 23, 2017 9:20 am -

Welcome to the calm before the storm.

Special Counsel Robert Mueller has so far conducted a refreshingly leak-free investigation into the monsoon of evidence that Russia tampered with the 2016 presidential election and conspired with members of Donald Trump’s presidential campaign. A little sleuthing on social media points to evidence that that the “leaks” are largely from public judicial professionals, lawyers for individuald interviewed by Mueller’s team, sources tied to the Justice Department but not directly working for the Mueller probe, and experts on court filings and paperwork whose sleuthing has yielded tangible and documented information.

You may have noticed that there has not been much in the way of Mueller-related chatter in the last couple of weeks, which suggests that Mueller may well be preparing a big public move in the next several weeks. Twitter’s Eric Garland put it this way:

However, there was one headline this morning, and to our delight, Republicans have just seen their talking point that claimed Mueller is running a “partisan witch hunt” blown to smithereens.

In the early hours, NBC News reported Mueller’s investigation of Russian meddling in the 2016 Presidential election and politics in general is now looking into a Democratic-aligned lobbyist hired to shill for pro-Russian Ukranians:

Tony Podesta and the Podesta Group are now the subjects of a federal investigation being led by Special Counsel Robert Mueller, three sources with knowledge of the matter told NBC News.

The probe of Podesta and his Democratic-leaning lobbying firm grew out of Mueller’s inquiry into the finances of former Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort, according to the sources. As special counsel, Mueller has been tasked with investigating possible collusion between the Trump campaign and Russia.

Manafort had organized a public relations campaign for a non-profit called the European Centre for a Modern Ukraine (ECMU). Podesta’s company was one of many firms that worked on the campaign, which promoted Ukraine’s image in the West.

The sources said the investigation into Podesta and his company began as more of a fact-finding mission about the ECMU and Manafort’s role in the campaign, but has now morphed into a criminal inquiry into whether the firm violated the Foreign Agents Registration Act, known as FARA. …

In late August, NBC News reported that Special Counsel Mueller’s team sent subpoenas to six firms who were involved in public relations lobbying for ECMU.

It’s a good thing that Mueller is doing his job and going where the evidence leads him. On the other hand, in another example of Republicans putting party above country, The New York Times reports that the nation cannot count on Congress to do anything about Russian meddling in our nation’s elections:

In a secured room in the basement of the Capitol in July, Jared Kushner, President Trump’s son-in-law and senior adviser, fielded question after question from members of the House Intelligence Committee. Though the allotted time for the grilling had expired, he offered to stick around as long as they wanted.

But Representative Trey Gowdy, who spent nearly three years investigating Hillary Clinton’s culpability in the deadly 2012 attack in Benghazi, Libya, was growing frustrated after two hours. You are in an unwinnable situation, Mr. Gowdy, a South Carolina Republican, counseled Mr. Kushner. If you leave now, Democrats will say you did not answer all the questions. If you stay, they will keep you here all week.

The exchange, described by three people with knowledge of it, typified the political morass that is crippling the House Intelligence Committee’s investigation into Russian meddling in the 2016 election — and whether the Trump campaign colluded in any way.

But the problems extend beyond that panel. All three committees looking into Russian interference — one in the House, two in the Senate — have run into problems, from insufficient staffing to fights over when the committees should wrap up their investigations. The Senate Judiciary Committee’s inquiry has barely started, delayed in part by negotiations over the scope of the investigation. Leaders of the Senate Intelligence Committee, while maintaining bipartisan comity, have sought to tamp down expectations about what they might find.

Nine months into the Trump administration, any notion that Capitol Hill would provide a comprehensive, authoritative and bipartisan accounting of the extraordinary efforts of a hostile power to disrupt American democracy appears to be dwindling.

Nevertheless, one of the key Russiagate players is scheduled to testify on Capitol Hill today. Given the presence of staffers for Rep. Adam Schiff, the appearance is likely not going to be a softball affair.

President Donald Trump’s campaign digital director, Brad Parscale, will be interviewed Tuesday by the House Intelligence Committee, his first appearance before any of the panels examining the issue of Russian interference in the 2016 election.

Mr. Parscale confirmed his scheduled appearance. The Senate committees also probing interference have not scheduled time with Mr. Parscale, he said, declining further comment.

Facebook Inc., Google and Twitter Inc. are all scheduled to testify on Capitol Hill Nov. 1. …

In a recent interview with the news program “60 Minutes,” Mr. Parscale said no one from the campaign collaborated with foreign entities. “It’s just a joke,” Mr. Parscale said.

Mr. Parscale was the Trump campaign’s highest-paid vendor. His San Antonio-based firm Giles-Parscale drew nearly $88 million for about 18 months of work, according to Federal Election Commission disclosures.

Mr. Parscale has remained involved with the president’s political efforts.

Lest you think Putin cooked up his assault on Hillary in mid-2015, this interesting wrinkle lends credence to the fact that Hillary Clinton has long been in Vladimir Putin’s sites:

As Hillary Clinton was beginning her job as President Obama’s chief diplomat, federal agents observed as multiple arms of Vladimir Putin’s machine unleashed an influence campaign designed to win access to the new secretary of State, her husband Bill Clinton and members of their inner circle, according to interviews and once-sealed FBI records.

Some of the activities FBI agents gathered evidence about in 2009 and 2010 were covert and illegal.

A female Russian spy posing as an American accountant, for instance, used a false identity to burrow her way into the employ of a major Democratic donor in hopes of gaining intelligence on Hillary Clinton’s department, records show. The spy was arrested and deported as she moved closer to getting inside the secretary’s department, agents said.

Other activities were perfectly legal and sitting in plain view, such as when a subsidiary of Russia’s state-controlled nuclear energy company hired a Washington firm to lobby the Obama administration.

Is someone feeling left out of all the Mueller action? Why, yes — and his name is Donald J. Trump:

Trump said he has not been asked for an interview with U.S. special counsel Robert Mueller, who is leading the federal investigation into alleged Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election.

Asked whether he would answer questions from Mueller, Trump told Fox Business Network in an interview that aired on Monday: “I don’t know. Nobody’s asked me to do that.”

Maybe he needs to talk to everyone else first, Uncle Dotard!

Real Russiagate junkies know there are several Twitter accounts that are weeks ahead of the mainstream media. One of them has been @aliasvaughn, and she adds two new name to the radar: Adam Waldman and Jason Maloni.

D.B. Hirsch
D.B. Hirsch is a political activist, news junkie, and retired ad copy writer and spin doctor. He lives in Brooklyn, New York.