Allegra Kirkland

Allegra Kirkland is a New York-based reporter for Talking Points Memo. She previously worked on The Nation’s web team and as the associate managing editor for AlterNet. Follow her on Twitter @allegrakirkland.

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You might assume that Carter Page is having a worse summer than Penn Station, but he doesn’t see it that way.

Page is one of a handful of former Trump campaign hands reported to be under federal scrutiny for his ties to Russia—putting him in the company of Mike Flynn, Paul Manafort and Jared Kushner, figures much more central to the scandal—and he claims he’s being stonewalled by congressional Democrats who don’t want him to clear his name in an open hearing. But he’s confident that there is no merit to the multiple probes into Russian interference in the U.S. election, and has been eager to offer his account to anyone who’ll listen. He’s given numerous TV interviews and frequently blasts out to a list of reporters lengthy letters beseeching Congress for a date to testify in public.

Sitting on a bench at the Manhattan train station’s Starbucks on Tuesday afternoon, Page told TPM that his openness is not an act of self-promotion or the result of naiveté. Concerns that it may not be in the best interests of a person under scrutiny in of one of the most high-profile scandals ever to consume the White House to be so forthcoming don’t faze Page, either.

“It’s a cost-benefit analysis,” Page explained of his concerted effort to correct the record on the Trump campaign’s ties to Russia, as Rihanna’s “Pon De Replay” pulsed through the coffee shop’s speakers.

He said he takes inspiration from a Marine he met at a Wounded Warrior Project fundraiser, who’d accepted an invitation to visit former President George W. Bush’s ranch in Crawford, Texas after losing his arm in Iraq. Page said when he asked the veteran how he felt while visiting the politician who launched the war that cost him a body part, the veteran replied, “I’m just doing my job. I’m doing the right thing.”

“It’s the same exact thing here,” Page said of his pushback against the various Russia investigations. “It’s not really worrying about the personal price you pay; it’s more about the broader mission and the national security of the U.S., right?”

The 46-year-old oil-and-gas analyst was a footnote on Trump’s campaign, brought on as a national security adviser in March 2016 to bolster what was then a nonexistent foreign policy team. Though he stayed on for only five months, Page has played a disproportionately large role in the multiple probes into the contacts Trump’s campaign associates had with Russian operatives. The New York Times reported that his July 2016 visit to Moscow, where he delivered a speech promoting improved U.S.-Russia relations, actually prompted the FBI to launch its initial investigation.

Bureau agents obtained a warrant under the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act to monitor Page’s communications in summer 2016. Federal investigators are reportedly looking into his professional ties to Russia, as well as allegations that surfaced in a largely unverified dossier compiled by a former British intelligence officer that accused Page and other Trump associates of being involved in a “well-developed conspiracy of cooperation” with the Kremlin.

A 30-minute conversation with Page yielded little new information he was willing to share on the record but made clear how much those probes have consumed his life. He showed an encyclopedic knowledge of the content of the letters he sends to the congressional intelligence committees rebutting witness testimony; quoted what various Obama administration officials had said about the investigation on cable news; and rattled off the publication dates of major articles that revealed new facts about the probes. Page even employs a shorthand to refer to the major players. Former FBI director James Comey is Neidermeyer, the abusive ROTC leader from the frathouse comedy film “Animal House,” while he invariably refers to the Obama administration as the “Clinton-Obama-Comey regime.”

In person, Page appears as on-edge as he does during his frequent TV interviews. The Navy veteran periodically scanned the perimeter of the Starbucks from under the rim of a faded New York Yankees hat, lowering his voice to ensure no potential eavesdroppers could hear what he had to say. Page wouldn’t discuss his personal life except to acknowledge that he has never married, saying he doesn’t want anyone he names to end up on one of those “wire diagrams” mapping out the connections the Trump team has to Russian operatives. And he said it “goes without saying” that the investment management firm that he runs from a Midtown Manhattan co-working space, Global Energy Capital LLC, has lost business as a result of the investigations.

Despite these preoccupations, Page is not concerned about the prospect of legal consequences for his foreign contacts.

“There’s nothing to hide,” Page said, reiterating that he sat for over 10 hours of interviews with FBI agents without a lawyer present and is relying on unnamed “volunteers” for legal advice.

He said he feels certain that Democrats will be held responsible for what he calls the “crimes” and “civil rights violations” committed against him by issuing an “illegal” FISA warrant. Much of the cloud over him could be dispelled if he was allowed to testify publicly, Page insisted, complaining that congressional Democrats were trying to control the narrative of the investigations by only allowing witnesses who have “information that might look questionable” to appear in open session.

“Anything that would paint the President in a bad way, they want them immediately,” he said of Democrats on the House and Senate Intelligence Committees.

Representatives for those committees, both of which are chaired by Republicans, told TPM that witness lists are agreed on in a bipartisan fashion.

“Invitations are issued by the Chairman & Vice Chairman, in consultation with Committee members,” Rachel Cohen, a spokeswoman for the Senate committee’s ranking Democrat, Mark Warner (D-VA), told TPM in an email. Warner’s counterpart in the House, Rep. Adam Schiff (D-CA), has made similar comments in the past.

Page thinks that the book he is shopping around on the investigation will help clear both his name and that of the President, who he praised as a “serious person” who is “looking out for the little guy.”

Asked if he has any regrets about joining the campaign given the personal and professional consequences he says he’s suffered, Page shook his head.

“I go back to that statement from that Marine in Iraq, right?” he said. “I’m just doing the right thing.”

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President Donald Trump’s eldest son and former campaign chairman are slated to testify before the Senate Judiciary Committee next week.

Donald Trump Jr. and Paul Manafort are among the big-ticket names now expected at a July 26 hearing as part of that panel’s probe into Russia’s interference in the 2016 election and the foreign dealings of a number of the President’s associates.

Trump Jr. recently made a raft of headlines for his previously undisclosed participation in a June 2016 Trump Tower meeting that was explicitly billed as a Russian government effort to help his father’s campaign. Manafort, who also attended the meeting, has long been under investigation by authorities for his work on behalf of a pro-Russian Ukrainian political party and his complex web of real estate dealings.

Another individual with ties to the attendees at the Trump Tower meeting is also expected to testify: William Browder, a London-based businessman, has lobbied for sanctions legislation that some of the Russian attendees at the meeting have worked to roll back.

The committee’s ranking Democrat, Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-CA), confirmed to CNN on Tuesday that special counsel Robert Mueller had cleared Manafort and Trump Jr. to testify publicly.

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At least two former associates of President Donald Trump’s campaign are struggling to pay hefty legal bills stemming from the congressional and federal probes into Russia’s interference in the U.S. election.

A person close to Michael Flynn told Bloomberg this week that the ousted national security adviser is establishing a fund to raise money for his defense. Covington & Burling attorney Robert Kelner is representing Flynn as investigators probe his lobbying work during the campaign on behalf of Turkey and his contacts with Russian officials.

Given that Flynn is the subject of an “open criminal investigation,” as former FBI director James Comey testified before Congress, his legal fees could easily amount to hundreds of thousands of dollars, according to Bloomberg.

Former campaign aide Michael Caputo is also having trouble paying former New York state attorney general Dennis Vacco to represent him in congressional probes, he told the Associated Press this week. Noting with irritation that the Trump campaign was footing the legal bill for Donald Trump, Jr., who met with a Kremlin-linked lawyer and others with ties to Russia at Trump Tower last year, Caputo told the AP he was using his children’s college funds to cover his own legal bills.

“Lucky for them,” Caputo said of those whose legal fees were covered by the campaign. “And unlucky for me. And unlucky for my children who are now going to community college.”

The Trump campaign doled out $50,000 to the law firm of Alan Futerfas, Trump Jr.’s lawyer, two weeks before any news of the meeting broke. The campaign has spent almost $1 million on legal fees since the start of the year, according to a recent Federal Election Commission filing.

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The eighth attendee at the now-infamous June 2016 Trump Tower with a Russian lawyer and Donald Trump, Jr. was identified by the Washington Post Tuesday as Ike Kaveladze, a senior U.S.-based official at a Russian real estate company.

Kaveladze was at the meeting as a representative for his boss Aras Agalarov, a Russian developer who has worked with the Trumps in the past, and his son, Emin, the Agalarovs’ lawyer told the Post.

The Agalarovs asked Rob Goldstone, a British music publicist, to arrange a sit-down with Trump’s eldest son so that a contact of theirs could provide what was described as incriminating information about Hillary Clinton as part of a Russian government effort to help the Trump campaign, according to an email chain Trump Jr. released last week.

Kaveladze was the last of the participants at that meeting to be identified. CNN reported earlier Tuesday that special counsel Robert Mueller wanted to speak to that eighth attendee as part of his probe into Russian interference in the U.S. election.

The Agalarov’s attorney, Scott Balber, told the Post that Kaveladze, a U.S. citizen, is a vice president specializing in real estate and finance for the Agalarovs’ company, the Crocus Group.

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Federal investigators want information from an as-yet unidentified individual who attended a Trump Tower meeting last year that was billed as part of the Russian government’s efforts to help Donald Trump’s campaign, CNN reported Tuesday.

“The eighth person has been identified by prosecutors and we are cooperating fully with prosecutors as a result of the investigation. To preserve the integrity of the investigation we are declining to identify him at this time,” the unidentified attendee’s attorney, Scott Balber, told CNN.

Balber told the news outlet that his client has not yet been interviewed by special counsel Robert Mueller.

The mysterious identity of this eighth attendee adds yet another layer of intrigue to the June 2016 meeting, which offered the clearest indication yet that senior members of the Trump campaign were open to accepting help from the Russian government.

In an email chain arranging the meeting that Donald Trump, Jr. published on Twitter, Trump’s eldest son said he’d “love” to get “ultra sensitive” information that would “incriminate” Hillary Clinton from a Russian government lawyer. The meeting was arranged by Rob Goldstone, a music publicist and acquaintance of the Trump family.

The known participants in the Trump Tower meeting include Trump Jr.; his brother-in-law and White House senior adviers Jared Kushner; then-campaign chairman Paul Manafort; Goldstone; Natalia Veselnitskaya, the Russian lawyer said to possess the dirt on Clinton; and Rinat Akhmetsin, a former Soviet counterintelligence officer-turned-lobbyist.

Also reportedly present was Anatoli Samochornov, a U.S. based translator and U.S. citizen. Sources familiar with the meeting told CNN that the as-yet unidentified eighth person in the room was a representative of Emin Agalarov and his father, Aras, previous business partners of the Trump family who Goldstone said in the email chain had asked him to set up the fateful meeting.

Balber, the unidentified individual’s attorney, told CNN that the person is a U.S. citizen who speaks fluent Russian and was asked to serve as Veselnitskaya’s translator and realized she had already brought a translator with her when he arrived. The individual has “never had any engagement with the Russian government in any capacity,” Balber told CNN.

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New York prosecutors have issued a subpoena seeking bank records from former Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort related to real estate loans of up to $16 million, the Wall Street Journal reported Monday.

The Manhattan District Attorney’s office has ordered the Federal Savings Bank, a small Chicago bank whose loans to Manafort make up almost a quarter of its equity capital, to turn over records related to loans issued for two properties owned by Manafort and his wife, according to the Journal.

Steve Calk, a member of Trump’s economic advisory council who runs the bank, told the newspaper he had no comment about the subpoena. A spokesperson for Manafort declined the Journal’s request for comment.

The veteran GOP operative is caught in a thicket of intertwined investigations, many of which relate to his complex real estate dealings. Both New York state Attorney General Eric Schneiderman and Cyrus Vance, Jr., the Manhattan district attorney, are looking into the millions of dollars in property that Manafort owns for evidence of fraud and money laundering.

Manafort is also under scrutiny by congressional and federal investigators for his work for a pro-Russian Ukrainian political party, as well as any assistance he may have provided to Russian operatives working to sway the election in Trump’s favor.

The Justice Department previously subpoenaed Citizens Financial Group, Inc. for Manafort’s banking records as part of the federal probe into Russia’s interference in the U.S. election, according to the Journal. Federal investigators also subpoenaed records related to a $3.5 million mortgage that Manafort took out on a country house he owns on Long Island, and were probing Manafort’s financial dealings with his son-in-law Jeffrey Yohai. As the New York Times previously reported, Manafort allegedly funneled millions of dollars to luxury properties across the U.S. that Yohai purchased through a network of shell companies.

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Most of the Trump campaign associates under scrutiny in the federal probe into Russia’s election interference have lawyered up and cut off direct contact with the media. Carter Page, a short-lived campaign adviser with connections to Russia, has taken the opposite tack, giving on-camera interviews, writing copious letters to Congress, and, in his latest effort, writing a book that promises to spill intimate details about the ongoing and sensitive investigation.

Page is shopping around a 46-page prospectus for a “landmark volume” on the 2016 campaign, tentatively titled “Politics, Lies And The Wiretap: Inside The Fight To End The 70-Year Cold War?”

The goal, Page wrote in an email to news outlets, is to counteract the “vast wave of false information discharged by the Clinton-Obama-Comey regime” about Russia’s interference in the 2016 election—which Page and Trump both deny—and the “vicious hunt” to discover whether any member of the Trump campaign assisted in that foreign effort. Page envisions his project as a conservative response to forthcoming books by ousted FBI director James Comey and former President Barack Obama.

Page had a brief tenure as a national security adviser to the campaign before he left amid questions about his July 2016 visit to Moscow, where he gave a talk urging the United States to lift sanctions against Russia; his investments in Russian energy giant Gazprom; and his work in Russia during the 1990s. The Washington Post reported that the FBI has conducted hours of interviews with Page about those ties, and Page told the newspaper that he had no lawyer present during those conversations.

His first-person account of the FBI interviews, as well as his allegations that he was illegally wiretapped by members of the Obama administration, are slated to be part of the book. U.S. officials have told the Post that in summer 2016, the FBI and Justice Department obtained a Foreign International Surveillance Court warrant to monitor Page’s communications because there was probable cause to believe he was acting on Russia’s behalf.

Page’s prospectus features the same grandiose language and attention to detail displayed in the many letters that he addresses to congressional intelligence committees and forwards to the media. There is a chart detailing the “Clinton/Obama regime toolbox in the 2016 election,” six pages of footnotes and even four proposed alternate titles (standouts include “Cracking the Nut Job: One Man’s Battle against the Obama Administration’s Corrupt Intelligence Community Tyrants” and “Cold COC’ed: Clashes with the Clinton-Obama-Comey Regime and the Restoration of American Leadership”).

Page told TPM via email that he is working on the project with a “team of people” and is in “initial discussions with a range of publishers, from the major houses.”

He said that the Trump administration has “no problem with me telling my story” and that the FBI is also “very supportive” of his project (The White House did not respond to TPM’s request for comment.)

The possible legal consequences of writing about an ongoing federal investigation he is a part of don’t concern Page, either. He said he has “zero legal liability” because he’s “never done anything wrong.” What he does expect from the project, which garnered write-ups in a handful of publications, is a sizable payout.

“After Drama Queen Comey has already told his fictional story for free on public access TV, I find it hard to imagine that my book which finally reveals the real truth about the criminal activities committed during the witch hunt would have a lower valuation than his next batch of forthcoming fairytales,” Page said.

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A White House not exactly known for its message discipline is fumbling its response to Donald Trump, Jr.’s meeting with a Kremlin-linked lawyer during the 2016 campaign, with new explanations that arise on a near-daily basis become increasingly harder to square with each other.

While maintaining its original defense, that the President himself did not know about the meeting, the Trump administration and the President’s team of outside lawyers have offered up a slew of additional and at times conflicting rationalizations for it. Since the rendezvous was first reported just over a week ago, it has been justified as standard political opposition research; cast as part of a Democratic smear campaign; defended as the naïve undertaking of a 39-year-old “good kid” trying to help his father; and, most recently, blamed on the U.S. Secret Service.

The Trump team’s first response to the June 2016 meeting between Trump Jr., his brother-in-law and White House adviser Jared Kushner, then-campaign manager Paul Manafort and Russian lawyer Natalia Veselnitskaya was to blame the Democrats. Mark Corallo, spokesman for Trump’s legal team, told the New York Times that Veselnitskaya and her fellow guests “misrepresented who they were,” and noted that she had worked with a firm that Democratic operatives retained to produce opposition research on Trump.

The President himself remained quiet, and stayed that way as damaging details about the true purpose of the meeting trickled out. After Trump Jr. got ahead of the Times by releasing a chain of emails via Twitter that revealed a bombshell—he’d attended a meeting expressly billed as an opportunity to obtain damaging information about Hillary Clinton as part of a Russian government effort to help his father’s campaign— Corallo would say only that Trump “was not aware of and did not attend” the meeting.

When Trump finally spoke out in support of his son in the middle of last week, he described him as a political neophyte who just was trying to help the campaign. He praised Trump Jr.’s “transparency” for publishing the entire email chain in which the meeting was arranged, praising him as a “high-quality person” and “good kid.”

“He had a meeting, nothing happened with the meeting,” Trump said.

“Honestly, in a world of politics, most people are going to take the meeting,” he continued. “If somebody called and said…hey, I have really some information on Donald Trump. You’re running against Donald Trump. Can I see you? I men, how many people are not going to take that meeting?”

The President and his defenders have continued to describe the meeting as standard “opposition research,” despite a ream of tweets and articles from opposition researchers and GOP campaign veterans explaining that digging through public records and media appearances for damaging information about an opponent is vastly different than soliciting the help of a hostile foreign government. Even Chris Wray, Trump’s nominee to lead the FBI, said that emails like the one Trump Jr. received should be reported to the bureau.

“Most politicians would have gone to a meeting like the one Don Jr attended in order to get info on an opponent,” Trump insisted in a Monday morning tweet. “That’s politics!”

Trump’s outside counsel got more creative over the weekend with a fresh defense: The Secret Service should have prevented the meeting from ever happening.

“I wonder why the Secret Service, if this was nefarious, why the Secret Service allowed these people in,” attorney Jay Sekulow said in an ABC News interview. “The President had Secret Service protection at that point, and that raised a question with me.”

Putting aside the fact that Trump’s team previously said his son did not know the names of the people he would be meeting, the Secret Service quickly dispatched with that argument by noting that Trump Jr. was not under its protection when he attended the meeting.

“Thus we would not have screened anyone he was meeting with at that time,” spokesman Mason Brayman said in a statement.

In his round of Sunday show hits, Sekulow offered up another talking point popular among White House officials, including Trump’s deputy assistant Sebastian Gorka, that deflects attention to Democrats. Sekulow claimed that “information actually was shared” between “the Ukrainians and the DNC and the Clinton campaign.”

That is an overreaching distillation of a January Politico article that reported Alexandra Chalupa, a former consultant for the Democratic National Committee, conducted independent research on Manafort’s work in Ukraine. Chalupa told Politico that she shared some of what she’d learned with officials at the Ukrainian Embassy in Washington and the DNC.

This throw-everything-at-the-wall-to-see-what-sticks approach may convince some voters or at create a new headline or two to divert some attention from the substance of the meeting. But each fresh rationalization, or excuse, for why Trump Jr. agreed to participate in a Russian government effort to help his father’s campaign is sure to be fodder for congressional and federal investigators probing the exact circumstances that led up to the pivotal meeting at Trump Tower.

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The list of participants at a pivotal June 2016 meeting between senior members of the Trump campaign and a Russian lawyer said to have dirt on Hillary Clinton as part of the Russian government’s efforts to help Trump, with CNN reporting on Friday that the number of known attendees had reached a total of “at least eight.”

Some of those present have confirmed their attendance at the Trump Tower meeting, arranged by a Trump family acquaintance, British publicist Rob Goldstone, who told Donald Trump, Jr. that his contact had information of great value to the campaign. Others remain nameless, for now.

The known participants include Trump Jr., his brother-in-law Jared Kushner, Goldstone, and then-campaign chairman Paul Manafort. Natalia Veselnitskaya, a Russian lawyer who Goldstone told Trump Jr. possessed this highly sensitive information, has also confirmed her attendance, although she denies discussing the U.S. election and having any connection to the Russian government.

Another attendee made himself known on Friday: Rinat Akhmetsin, a former Soviet counterintelligence officer who had teamed up with Veselnitskaya to lobby against a U.S. sanctions bill that resulted in Russian President Vladimir Putin banning American adoptions of Russian children. Both Akhmetsin and Veselnitskaya have said the meeting focused on the adoption issue.

CNN reported that the Trump Tower meeting was even more crowded, however. A source familiar with the sit-down told CNN that at least two other people, who were not named, were in attendance. One was a translator and the other was a representative of the powerful Russian family close to Putin who asked Goldstone to arrange the meeting with Trump Jr., according to the report.

Arav Agalarov, a real estate magnate, and his pop star son, Emin, helped Trump put on a Miss Universe competition in Moscow in 2013, and teamed up with him to create a Trump-branded tower in Moscow that was ultimately never built.

In his initial email to Trump Jr., Goldstone said that Emin Agalarov requested he hold a meeting with a lawyer who had “very high level and sensitive information” that is “part of Russia and its government’s support for Mr. Trump—helped along by Aras and Emin.”

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President Donald Trump and his team are casting it as absurdly conspiratorial to suggest there was anything odd about his oldest son accepting a meeting with a Kremlin-linked lawyer last June, noting that Russia was not a major campaign issue at the time.

But a close look at the timeline suggests that Donald Trump, Jr. took a meeting billed as an opportunity to learn information obtained as “part of Russia and its government’s support for Mr. Trump” at a moment when his father was taking heat from his opponent for his sunny view of Russian President Vladimir Putin, and shortly before the Kremlin’s disinformation and targeted leaking campaign against the Democrats began in earnest.

“You have to understand, when that took place, this was before Russia fever,” Trump told Reuters on Wednesday. “There was no Russia fever back then, that was at the beginning of the campaign, more or less.”

Trump Jr. took a similar tack on Tuesday when he took the surprise step of releasing the email chain leading up to his June 2016 meeting with a woman described to him as a “Russian government lawyer” who was said to have “information that would incriminate Hillary” Clinton. “To put this in context, this occurred before the current Russian fever was in vogue,” Trump Jr. said in a statement accompanying the email release.

This version of events does not tell the whole story. The campaign had already been underway for a year, and the news was full of articles about Trump’s “bromance” with Putin prior to the Trump Tower meeting between Trump Jr., his brother-in-law Jared Kushner, then-campaign chairman Paul Manafort, Russian lawyer Natalia Veselnitskaya, and lobbyist Rinat Akhmetshin. Headlines declared that Putin had ordered state-owned U.S. media outlets like RT to promote Trump’s candidacy and tear down Clinton’s, and questions swirled about Trump advisers’ business connections in Russia.

On June 2, 2016 Clinton gave her first major speech on national security—in effect, a speech about Trump. The presumptive Democratic nominee repeatedly invoked Trump’s bond with Russia’s leader, accusing him of praising “dictators like Vladimir Putin” and having a “bizarre fascination with dictators and strongmen who have no love for America.”

“He said if he were grading Vladimir Putin as a leader, he’d give him an A,” Clinton told the San Diego, California crowd of Trump, warning that such an unsavvy stance would allow a leader like Putin to “eat your lunch.”

The very next day, Rob Goldstone, a British publicist and family friend of the Trumps, first contacted Trump Jr. about the “very interesting” information a client of his had on Clinton.

“If it’s what you say I love it especially later in the summer,” Trump Jr. replied to the promise for dirt in Clinton, days after his father had clinched the presidential nomination for the Republican Party.

While Goldstone and Trump Jr. worked out the details of the meeting in a series of back-and-forth emails, then-candidate Trump hinted at a June 7 campaign rally that he would soon give a “major speech” about Clinton.

“I am going to give a major speech on probably Monday of next week, and we’re going to be discussing all of the things that have taken place with the Clintons,” Trump said at the time, promising information on their “corrupt dealings” to give “favorable treatment” to “the Russians” and other foreign governments. “I think you’re going to find it very informative and very, very interesting.”

At the same time, the apparatus for publishing stolen emails and documents involving Democratic Party leaders and operatives—later determined to have been hacked by Russian operatives—was being put into place. On June 8, DC Leaks, a site established to publish some of the stolen documents, posted its first tweet.

The Trump Tower meeting between Trump Jr., the campaign associates and the Russians came on June 9; both sides have said it was inconsequential, with Trump Jr. insisting he did not receive the damaging information he came for and the Russian participants claiming the conversation focused only on a defunct program enabling the adoption of Russian children by Americans.

WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange, a longtime Clinton critic, hinted in a June 12 interview that his site had a “very big year ahead,” promising the imminent release of emails “related to Hillary Clinton.”

Those emails wouldn’t drop until just before the Democratic National Convention in late July, but the public learned about the DNC breach at around this time via a June 14 Washington Post article that attributed it to hackers working on behalf of the Russian government. “Guccifer 2.0,” later determined by computer experts and U.S. officials to be a persona invented by Russian intelligence officials, began contacting U.S. news sites to claim credit for the hack and to offer stolen Democratic Party documents.

Putin praised Trump as a “bright” person at the Russian Economic Forum in St. Petersburg on June 17.

Amid this background and other major news events, Trump delayed his promised “major speech” on Clinton. After postponing it to account for the mass shooting at Pulse, a gay nightclub in Orlando, Florida, Trump promised in a June 21 tweet that a “big speech” about Clinton would come the next day.

From a stage in New York, Trump held forth about Clinton’s handling of the Benghazi attacks, her support for free trade and her “temperament.” None of these criticisms were new, but Trump added what would later seem a prescient warning: emails Clinton deleted from her private server could make her vulnerable to “blackmail” from countries hostile to the United States, he said.

As Trump cautioned, “We can’t hand over our government to someone whose deepest, darkest secrets may be in the hands of our enemies.”

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