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On Wednesday morning Donald Trump retweeted three videos posted by a British extremist named Jayda Fransen recently convicted of hate crimes. Two of the videos purported to show Muslims committing violent acts, but have been debunked as inaccurate or misleading.

The third video, depicting a bearded man destroying a statue of the Virgin Mary, is ironically very much akin to the sort of religious desecration associated with the oft-arrested Fransen’s hate group, Britain First—except when Fransen does it, it’s in the faces of British Muslims.

Even among British fringe figures, Britain First is considered radioactive, and for good reason: When a man named Thomas Mair murdered British MP and 41-year-old mother of two Jo Cox in June 2016, he repeatedly shouted “Britain First!” Trump’s retweets will almost certainly help revitalize the struggling group, according to experts.

Cox’s husband Brendan Cox responded to Trump on Twitter on Wednesday:

Nick Ryan, who works for UK-based antiracist group Hope Not Hate, told TPM that Britain First is committed to violence in a way that distinguishes it even from other far-right outfits. Publicly a “Christian” organization, Ryan said, Britain First uses crucifixes and Bibles in pranks intended to provoke angry responses from Muslims, which are videotaped, often misleadingly edited, and posted on social media in a bid for the sort of attention and publicity that the President of the United States provided Wednesday morning.

“[Britain First] originated from a very far-right party in the UK, the British National Party,” Ryan explained. The group is nominally involved in electoral politics, he said, but it is more interested in public stunts that can make Muslims look bad or bring them physical harm. Its membership—and it is a small organization of about 1,000 people across the entire U.K.—is composed of “thugs who are committed to violence.”

“These aren’t guys in bow ties discussing eugenics, as disgusting as that may be,” said Ryan. “They’re coming from a street-based understanding of politics.”

Fransen made British headlines for marching through a predominately Muslim area of Luton in a paramilitary uniform carrying a large crucifix and picking fights with the locals; she was arrested, prosecuted, and fined under a statute that forbids the wearing of uniforms “for a political purpose;” the law was passed in the 1930s in an effort to control British fascists like Oswald Moseley’s notoriously violent brownshirts, though it has also been used to prosecute political protestors.

When it comes to Britain First, there is little ambiguity about the group’s taste for violent confrontation. “When someone insults them back, they videotape it and then share it very rapidly on their social platforms to promote the idea that there are no-go areas and they’re just Christians minding their own business, when in fact they’re trying to incite violence,” said Ryan. “They’ll go into mosques in paramilitary uniforms and walk over the prayer mats with big heavy boots, thrust a Bible into the hands of the imams and tell them they’re worshipping a false prophet. I’ve seen them go into Brick Lane in a disused military vehicle handing out leaflets; it’s all these very high-profile stunts designed to get attention.”

Even far-right figures were horrified by Trump’s tweets on Wednesday morning; dissembling conspiracist Paul Joseph Watson tweeted that “someone might want to tell whoever is running Trump’s Twitter account this morning that retweeting Britain First is not great optics.” Britain’s own prime minister Theresa May, formerly one of the president’s staunch allies, condemned Trump, apparently for the first time: “It is wrong for the president to have done this,” she said.

Trump’s tweets can often be lined up with whatever is on cable news at the moment; in this case it’s less clear how he came across Fransen’s twitter feed. However it happened, his actions Wednesday morning will doubtless reinvigorate a movement the vast majority of the U.K. deplores and hopes will go away. “Trump’s retweets are just throwing oil on a dying fire,” Ryan said.

“I don’t see how it advances America’s interests.”

This post has been updated.

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President Donald Trump’s son, Donald Trump Jr. is expected to be interviewed by the House Intelligence Committee next week, CNN reported.

Trump Jr. has become a sought-after figure in the various investigations into Russian election meddling. He was present at a June 2016 meeting with Kremlin-linked figures at Trump Tower — a meeting before which he was told by an intermediary that they would be presenting incriminating information on Hillary Clinton. (Trump Jr. published the email exchange on Twitter, ahead of a story the New York Times was about to drop on it, with a statement that claimed that Russians ultimately did not have any anti-Clinton information to provide at the meeting.).

He also was in contact with the Wikileaks Twitter account via private messages in the fall of 2016, The Atlantic reported.

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Rick Gates’ side-job producing a handful of D-list films has come back to haunt him in the case brought against him by Special Counsel Robert Mueller.

Whether Gates’ Hollywood dealings would attract the attention of Mueller has long been a question and it appears now that they have, as a separate fraud case brought in New York against some of Gates’ film producing associates is now causing Gates problems in his own criminal case.

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Michael Flynn had his Middle East nuclear power plan prepped for presidential approval by staffers at the National Security Council, the Wall Street Journal reported Tuesday. Flynn’s plan to promote his former colleagues’ business interests in the Middle East while serving in the Trump administration was previously known—what wasn’t known is how far he managed to get with it.

The proposal was simple and brazen: Flynn’s business associates would build and operate dozens of nuclear plants worth hundreds of billions of dollars in Saudi Arabia and elsewhere in the Middle East, according the Wall Street Journal. Today, the Journal reported that Flynn had proceeded much further than previously known—he instructed his colleagues on the National Security Council to draft a plan for approval by the president based on memos from the group of retired military officers now working in the private sector.

Since Flynn’s resignation, Flynn’s old business partners have sought out other avenues to get approval for the project, valued at $250 billion—including Jared Kusher. The White House told the Journal “nothing came” of the meetings with Kushner. Beyond the amount of money at stake, the plan was also conceived as a rebuke to Iran, strengthening the nuclear presence of Saudi Arabia, which remains hostile to it.

An ally Flynn brought with him to the NSC, former Army Col. Derek Harvey, attempted to bypass the office of the NSC that handles economic and energy issues and broker the deal directly with the private sector. Another ally, former Reagan national security advisor Bud MacFarlane, sent Flynn a draft memo for the president. Flynn told NSC staff to “prepare a package for the president” to review and put into motion, according to the Journal.

The companies involved told the Journal that the administration had asked for the proposals:

In emailed responses to questions from the Journal, the plan’s backers said the meetings and documents were sent at the administration’s request. They said Mr. Flynn had been invited to join their group in the summer of 2016, but that in December he said he wouldn’t participate.

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The Manhattan District Attorney’s office is reportedly scheduling interviews with as many as 20 business associates and lenders of indicted Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort, including a fellow adviser on the Trump team.

Bloomberg reported Tuesday that Stephen Calk, who served on the Trump campaign’s economic advisory council, is one of the individuals whose ties to Manafort are being scrutinized by Manhattan prosecutors. Calk’s Chicago-based Federal Savings Bank lent millions of dollars to properties owned by Manafort, whom special counsel Robert Mueller indicted on financial crimes charges in late October.

Manafort has pleaded not guilty to those charges, but his legal troubles are far-reaching. Since this spring, Manhattan District Attorney Cyrus Vance has been looking into possible tax evasion and the falsification of business records relating to his web of real estate transactions, according to Bloomberg. New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman is conducting a separate probe into potential money laundering by the GOP operative.

Notably, individuals found guilty of state crimes, unlike those convicted of charges brought by federal prosecutors, can’t be pardoned by the President.

The Wall Street Journal previously reported that both state investigations were sharing information with Mueller’s probe.

Spokespeople for the bank, Manafort, Vance’s office and Schneiderman’s office declined Bloomberg’s requests for comment.

President Donald Trump has shown no particular sympathy for Manafort’s plight thus far. After news broke that Manafort was indicted for a money laundering conspiracy and for violating the Foreign Agents Registration Act, Trump said that the charges predated Manafort’s involvement with the campaign, and the President tried to redirect attention to “Crooked Hillary & the Dems.”

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Mick Mulvaney, in his battle with Leandra English over the acting directorship of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, asked staff to forward “additional communications from her … in any form” to the Wall Street watchdog’s general counsel. It looks like somebody did, and today he is upset.

In a Tuesday email to CFPB staff obtained by TPM, Mulvaney apologized for having to reiterate that he is the true acting director and told staff to disregard emails or instructions from English:

I understand that Ms. English sent out at least one additional email today wherein she purports to be the Acting Director.

Consistent with my email from yesterday, please disregard any emails sent by, or instructions you receive from, Ms. English when she is purporting to act as the Acting Director.

I apologize for having to send this instruction again. And I feel terrible about you folks being put in this position, as I understand it can be both confusing and disruptive. However, I hope we won’t have any more misunderstandings moving forward.

Please feel free to reach out to me here or in person if you have any questions.

Thanks very much.

Mick M.
Acting Director

English has filed suit seeking both a temporary injunction and a restraining order against Mulvaney to prevent him from assuming the acting directorship of the government agency, which the very conservative former South Carolina congressman has often criticized. U.S. District Judge Timothy J. Kelly heard arguments on Monday in English’s case in Washington but did not immediately hand down a ruling; he is expected to do so Tuesday.

Mulvaney, who was appointed as purported acting director by President Donald Trump, is still serving as director of the White House Office of Management and Budget.

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Ed. note: This article was published before special counsel Robert Mueller charged former National Security Advisor Michael Flynn with one count of making a false statement to the FBI about his contacts with Russia.

Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s Russia investigation may be heading toward a major turn, if recent hints that former National Security Advisor Mike Flynn is cooperating with the probe pan out.

Flynn — who departed the White House after revelations that he obscured his contacts with Russian officials — became a top Trump ally when the real estate mogul’s campaign still seemed like a long shot. The retired general remained a crucial figure through the transition and early days of the administration.

There are now signs that the special counsel may be in the process of flipping Flynn, with news that his legal team has stopped collaborating with President Trump’s, as well as reports that Flynn’s lawyer met with Mueller’s team Monday. Such moves aren’t guarantees that Mueller has turned Flynn — let alone turned Flynn against President Trump or his inner circle. Yet Flynn would be an extremely valuable witness to Mueller, perhaps more valuable than the other campaign figures who have been swept up in Mueller’s investigation.

There are a handful of known examples placing Flynn in the middle of Trump world interactions with Russian figures — interactions the White House has sought to downplay. Then there is Trump’s continued loyalty to Flynn, who was fired in February — a loyalty that raises a flag for former prosecutors.

“Trump’s not the type of guy who goes out of the way for anybody. Why would he be so concerned about Flynn and saying such nice things about Flynn?” Nick Akerman, an assistant Watergate prosecutor, told TPM.

“So what is it that Flynn knows and who is it that Flynn knows it about? Is it Trump? Is it Kushner? Is it Don Jr.? Is it all of the above?” Akerman said.

It may be many months before we know exactly what Flynn has to offer Mueller — or if any offer is even being made. But there are plenty of reasons to believe his cooperation could be problematic for Trump and his inner circle.

Kushner’s ‘Backchannel’ Idea

Flynn was present at a Dec. 1 Trump Tower meeting where Kushner reportedly  proposed to Russian Ambassador Sergey Kislyak that they set up a backchannel for  transition team communications with Moscow.

Since the meeting and the backchannel idea were initially reported, Kushner has pushed back on claims of impropriety. In a statement to congressional investigators, Kushner said that Kislyak had bought up having his “generals” brief Flynn on working with the U.S. in Syria.

I asked if they had an existing communications channel at his embassy we could use where they would be comfortable transmitting the information they wanted to relay to General Flynn,” Kushner said. “The Ambassador said that would not be possible and so we all agreed that we would receive this information after the Inauguration.”

The meeting, which the White House only acknowledged in March after media reports about it, is one of a series of examples of Trump associates not disclosing their contacts with Russians during and after the campaign.

Pre-Inauguration Sanctions Talk With Russia

What ultimately led to Flynn’s White House ouster was previously undisclosed contacts he had with Russian officials before the inauguration, including one conversation where he reportedly discussed sanctions the Obama administration was imposing on Russia in late December.

The White House’s story about Flynn’s sanctions-related conversation with Kislyak changed drastically as the details about it were reported. Most notable perhaps was the stern denial by Vice President Mike Pence in January that sanctions were discussed.

A GOP Operative’s Hunt For Clinton’s Emails

The veteran GOP operative who launched a freelance campaign to obtain emails stolen from Hillary Clinton’s personal server during the 2016 race boasted of support from two key backers: Flynn and his son, Michael Flynn Jr.

In recruiting emails to computer security experts, the operative, Peter W. Smith, said Flynn’s consulting firm was assisting his effort to obtain the emails, which Smith told the Wall Street Journal he understood were likely hacked by Russian operatives.

A British security analyst contacted by Smith said their communications made it “immediately apparent that Smith was both well connected within the top echelons of the campaign and he seemed to know both Lt. Gen. Flynn and his son well.”

Smith, who died in May, name-dropped other Trump campaign officials he claimed were working with him, including former chief White House strategist Steve Bannon and White House counselor Kellyanne Conway, in a recruiting document. Both have denied any involvement.

White House Knowledge Of Flynn’s Other Foreign Dealings

Senior transition and White House officials were warned on multiple occasions about Flynn’s work for foreign governments.

Vice President Mike Pence was informed about Flynn’s lobbying on behalf of Turkey in a November 2016 letter from Rep. Elijah Cummings (D-MD); Flynn reportedly notified transition team chief lawyer-turned-White House counsel Don McGahn that he was under federal investigation for that work weeks before inauguration; and former Acting Attorney General Sally Yates told McGahn in late January that Flynn was “compromised with respect to the Russians.”

Yet Flynn stayed in office for 18 days after Yates’ urgent warning, and the White House has insisted he was fired only for lying to Pence about his contacts with Russians.

So what did White House officials know about Flynn’s foreign dealings and when exactly did they learn it?

Trump Runs Interference For Flynn With Comey

At an infamous Feb. 14 meeting, the day after Flynn was fired, Trump reportedly said to then-FBI Director James Comey: “I hope you can see your way clear to letting this go, to letting Flynn go. He is a good guy.”

Trump has denied making this request, which Comey testified before Congress that he took as “a direction” that left him “stunned.” The former FBI director has turned over to Mueller contemporaneous memos he kept of his one-on-one conversations with Trump.

Comey also said the President never inquired about any other investigation.

This spring, Flynn reportedly assured associates he would remain loyal to the President and made the remarkable admission that Trump told him to “stay strong” during the investigation. Former prosecutors warn that such ongoing conversations could be portrayed as witness tampering.

Possible Policy Quid Pro Quo

Flynn accepted hefty sums to smear a Muslim cleric loathed by Turkey’s government, and reportedly offered to spirit him out of the country for even more money. But did he take additional steps during the transition or administration on Turkey’s behalf?

Flynn brought Bijan Kian, his Flynn Intel Group partner who spearheaded the anti-cleric lobbying contract, onto the transition team to advise on national security issues. Kian is now reportedly a subject of Mueller’s investigation.

As McClatchy reported, just days before inauguration, Flynn put a hold on a military operation to retake the Islamic State stronghold of Raqqa that Turkey opposed because it relied on assistance from Syrian Kurdish forces.

The Trump administration ultimately approved the plan weeks after Flynn was fired.

Akerman, the former Watergate prosecutor, said that Flynn’s decision held off the invasion “for a long period of time, putting people’s lives in jeopardy.”

“It really is pretty outrageous, so what did Trump know about that? And about [Flynn’s] involvement with Turkey?” Akerman asked.

The Trump Campaign’s Other Russia Shenanigans

Where Flynn fits in with the other areas of reported contacts between Trump campaign associates and Kremlin-linked figures is still an open question.

Flynn is not among the campaign officials identified in court documents about campaign foreign policy adviser George Papadopoulos’ own Russia-related contacts. Another foreign policy adviser Carter Page, in testimony to the House Intel Committee, denied communications with Flynn, though he did tell other campaign officials about a 2016 trip to Moscow. And The Atlantic’s report on private messages between Donald Trump Jr. and Wikileaks’ Twitter account did not include Flynn among the campaign officials Trump Jr. informed about his Wikileaks contacts.

If Flynn has more to add about those shenanigans, it could be useful to Mueller as well.

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Just who is in charge of protecting consumers from predatory business practices?

The battle underway for the leadership of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau is being fought in the CFPB’s inboxes Monday morning.

The fight is between the very conservative Mick Mulvaney, the current director of the Office of Management and Budget, and Leandra English, the next in command behind Obama’s recently departed pick, Richard Cordray.

Trump is trying to appoint Mulvaney as acting director of CFBP, which English says is illegal. For her part English claims the law provides that she became acting director when Cordray stepped down. English filed suite over the weekend, asking for both a temporary injunction and a restraining order against Mulvaney.

Monday morning, English sent the following email to her colleagues at the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau and signed it “Leeandra English, Acting Director:”

Dear Colleagues,

I hope that everyone had a great Thanksgiving. With Thanksgiving in mind, I wanted to take a moment to share my gratitude to all of you for your service.

It is an honor to work with all of you.

Best,
Leandra English
Acting Director

Moments later, Mulvaney replied, also signing his email “acting director”:

All,

I was working on an introductory email just now to thank all of you for the very smooth transition this morning as I assume the role of Acting Director; I hope to finish that email shortly.

However, it has come to my attention that Ms. English has reached out to many of you this morning via email in an attempt to exercise certain duties of the Acting Director. This is unfortunate but, in the atmosphere of the day, probably not unexpected.

Please disregard any instructions you receive from Ms. English in her presumed capacity as Acting Director. If you receive additional communications from her today in any form, related in any way to the function of her actual or presumed official duties (i.e. not personal), please inform the General Counsel immediately.

I apologize for this being the very first thing you hear from me. However, under the circumstances I suppose it is necessary.

I look forward to working with all of you. If you’re at 1700 G St today, please stop by the fourth floor to say hello and grab a donut.

Thanks,
Mick Mulvaney
Acting Director

The head of operations at the CFPB, Sartaj Alag, tried to play referee:

Ops Colleagues:

While you may be reading a variety of views in the news, our general counsel has advised that Mick Mulvaney is our interim director, and we should do our part to collaborate with him and his team on a smooth transition.

If you have questions about anything related to the CFPB leadership transition, please do not hesitate to reach out to me. I encourage you to review the Bureau’s policies on media inquiries, congressional inquiries, and intergovernmental inquiries (available on the wiki). The CFPB leadership transition has been the subject of several press stories over the weekend. Please follow the applicable guidelines should you receive inquiries about this or any other matter related to the Bureau’s operations.

Thanks very much for your dedication and professionalism.

Sincerely,

Sartaj Alag
COO

A source tells TPM that there is very little institutional support for Mulvaney, who has been broadly critical of government regulation and of the CFPB in particular.

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Facebook has announced a new policy for the end of the year: When it comes to Russia, digital ads serve you.

The social media behemoth announced on its blog today that it is in the process of building a tool to allow users to see which posts from the Russian Internet Research Agency—now the Federal News Agency, or FAN—appeared in their feeds during the 20-month period between January 2015 and August 2016.

The move is part of the company’s “ongoing effort to protect our platforms and the people who use them from bad actors who try to undermine our democracy,” wrote a Facebook spokesperson in an un-bylined post.

Rep. Adam Schiff (D-CA), ranking member of the House Intelligence Committee, called the announcement “a very positive step” in the wake of multiple tense hearings on Capitol Hill where lawyers from Facebook, Twitter, and Google were grilled about their role influencing the 2016 election. But Schiff added that he and his fellow lawmakers “look forward to additional steps by the companies to improve transparency with respect to Russian abuse of their platforms, and urge them to furnish a joint report on how Russia used these platforms to sow discord and influence the election.”

The use of domestic social media companies to inflame distrust in the American government during the U.S. 2016 election, and specifically to promote Donald Trump, remains unheard-of in terms of pure scale. In January 2015, the first month the Russian ad-tracking tool will cover, more than half of the country had an account, according the USA Today.

Facebook’s new tool for viewing propaganda ads is the latest salvo in a damage-control campaign by the company that kicked into high gear last month, when they were caught redacting references to Russia from an April report on the way its platform was manipulated during the election. Since then, the company has admitted that its estimates for the number of users who were shown Russian-backed ads skewed low, and lawmakers have proposed regulation in response.

Democrats and Republicans in both houses of Congress have publicly criticized the tech companies’ laissez-faire attitude toward compliance with political ad laws. In a Senate hearing earlier in November, a Google executive memorably refused to guarantee that his company would not accept payment for political ads in rubles.

Democratic senators Mark Warner (D-VA) and Amy Klobuchar (D-MN) have co-sponsored a bill along with John McCain (R-A) called the “Honest Ads Act,” which would mandate significantly more disclosure by companies that sell digital advertising.

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Aleksander Torshin, a former Russian parliamentarian and banking official accused of laundering money for organized crime by Spanish authorities last year, met with Donald Trump, Jr. according to a new report by CBS.

The younger Donald met with Torshin for only a few minutes at an NRA event in 2016, according to the network’s anonymous source. Torshin had proposed meeting with the senior Donald Trump during an event scheduled to take place during the NRA’s annual convention in Louisville, Ky. According to the New York Times, the invitation was an emailed five-page proposal passed to Jared Kushner inviting the president to the event—he did not attend—where Trump could meet Torshin.

Torshin, who runs an all-Russian organization called The Right to Bear Arms, pitched the campaign’s shared values around both Christianity and gun rights, for which Torshin, a lifetime member of the American NRA, is an advocate in Russia.

Torshin contacted the campaign through a Christian advocate and former Iraq contractor in West Virginia named Rick Clay. Also in May 2016, Clay emailed campaign staffer and now White House deputy chief of staff Rick Dearborn to offer a channel to Torshin; Dearborn emailed Kushner offering a “Russian backdoor overture and dinner invite,” according to the email’s subject line. Kushner left the email out of documents he provided to the Senate Intelligence Committee, who requested it specifically among “several documents that are known to exist” in a follow-up.

Both Torshin and his assistant, Maria Butina, claim to be members of an all-Russian organization called The Right to Bear Arms, named after the second amendment of the U.S. Constitution. Butina, a former Siberian furniture store owner, according to the Daily Beast, now lives in Washington, D.C.

A delegation of the NRA met with The Right to Bear Arms on a trip to Moscow in December 2015, the Beast reported. Butina also shares a business with Paul Erickson, a longtime Republican activist.

The CBS report referred only to “an NRA event in May 2016” but previous reporting on the topic suggests that Torshin sought Trump Sr. and got Trump Jr.

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