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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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Storm clouds have been gathering above the lightly-tousled head of Jared Kushner, President Donald Trump’s son-in-law and trusted White House adviser, since April. But they split wide open this week amid damaging revelations about Kushner’s participation in a meeting with a Kremlin-linked lawyer promising incriminating information about Hillary Clinton, in addition to a fresh report about investigators’ interest in the data operation he was responsible for during the campaign.

Already a “person of interest” in the special counsel’s probe on multiple fronts, federal investigators are now looking into Kushner’s attendance at a June 2016 Trump Tower meeting with the lawyer, Natalia Veselnitskaya, who was one of more than 100 foreign contacts disclosed in three separate revisions to his security clearance forms. They’re also probing whether the Trump campaign’s digital operation, which Kushner oversaw, coordinated with Russia to guide fake news stories to key districts in swing states.

Democratic lawmakers and political observers on both sides of the aisle are questioning how Kushner can maintain the security clearance he needs to work on his overstuffed portfolio, or if he can even stay in the West Wing at all, given those reports. On top of that, White House aides and Trump’s legal team have been spilling in the press their concerns that Kushner’s continued presence is endangering the President.

Kushner, who is known for keeping his head down, has made no public comment on the latest revelations. TPM’s requests for comment to the White House press office were forwarded to Kushner’s spokesperson, who did not respond.

It’s unclear whether Kushner intentionally omitted all of his foreign contacts from the security clearance form he initially filed in January; why he needed to file three amended disclosures to detail the more than 100 foreign contacts he did have; what he discussed in those conversations with foreign nationals; and why he agreed, on very short notice, to attend a meeting billed as an opportunity to obtain dirt from a “Russian government lawyer” as part of a Russian government effort to help the Trump campaign. That sit-down with Veselnitskaya apparently only came to light because Kushner’s lawyers discovered it as they reviewed documents to prepare for his testimony before Congress, prompting him to immediately file a supplementary disclosure.

“I’ve worked with colleagues over the years whose clearance was suspended or revoked for far smaller violations than leaving something of this consequence off their SF-86,” Derek Chollet, strategic planning director on Obama’s National Security Council, told TPM, using shorthand for the Standard Form 86 security clearance application.

Trump’s advisers and supporters have invoked the trite phrase “nothing burger” to brush aside concerns about the Veselnitskaya meeting, and the President has insisted it was nothing more than a “very standard” example of trying to obtain opposition research. Many opposition researchers and GOP strategists have argued otherwise, noting that this was an offer from a foreign agent to meddle in another country’s political affairs.

“If he’s had a meeting with a former employer or a private-sector company or a friendly foreign government that’d be one thing, but given that it’s Russia, it’s in an entirely different category,” Republican strategist and campaign veteran Matt Mackowiak told TPM. “And should be.”

Other longtime political operatives, many of whom have been highly critical of the Trump administration, say that Kushner’s meetings are grounds for dismissal or resignation.

“Still marinating on fact that the below actually happened and 0 people have quit,” former Jeb Bush communications director Tim Miller, wrote on Twitter.

Former Obama Justice Department spokesperson Matt Miller called it an “unbelievable scandal” that Kushner retained his White House post and security clearance.

Kushner’s foreign contacts have dogged him since the New York Times first reported in April that meetings with the Russian ambassador to the U.S. and the CEO of a Russian state-owned bank under U.S. sanctions were among those omitted on his SF-86. That report first prompted calls from Democratic lawmakers for Kushner’s interim security clearance to be revoked, which grew louder the following month with news he proposed establishing a secret, secure communications channel with Russia during the transition to the White House.

Meanwhile, federal investigators are reviewing Kushner’s personal finances and Trump’s abrupt firing of FBI director James Comey over the “Russia thing,” which Kushner reportedly supported. Trump’s legal team is growing concerned that Kushner’s centrality to the Russia investigation and closeness to the President could pose a legal risk.

The Times reported that Kushner had told Trump about the Veselnitskaya meeting when he filed his amended disclosure about it, but that he downplayed its significance, assuring his father-in-law that nothing valuable was learned.

Private conversations like that are deeply troubling to Trump’s outside legal team, which is working overtime to minimize his exposure to the Russia scandal, according to reports in the Times and Axios.

The ring on Kushner’s finger provides the best form of job security, as the President is unlikely to fire the husband of his daughter and close White House adviser, Ivanka. But Trump hasn’t said much of anything about Kushner this week, even as he’s defended his son, Donald Trump, Jr., who invited Kushner to the rendezvous with Veselnitskaya.

In a Thursday press conference with French President Emmanuel Macron, Trump called his eldest son a “great young man” and a “fine person.” He did not reference Kushner, who by all accounts skipped out of the meeting early, by name, noting only there were “two other people in the room.”

Mackowiak said to expect more strategic distancing and drawn knives from this notoriously leaky, fractious administration as the multiple Russia investigations ramp up.

“Three months ago all their interests were aligned,” he said. “As the story continues to develop, that breaks down over time. They all have their own interests, they all have their own legal strategies, they have to think about themselves.”

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President Donald Trump’s stated timeline of when he learned about the meeting his eldest son attended as part of an explicit Russian government effort to deliver information that would help his campaign makes little sense and conflicts with reporting about when he was first notified about the meeting.

Trump insists that, like the public, he only learned recently about the meeting Donald Trump Jr., Jared Kushner, his son-in-law and adviser, and Paul Manafort, his then-campaign manager, held at his Trump Tower campaign headquarters in June 2016.

Dismissing the uproar over the clearest evidence yet that members of his campaign’s inner circle were willing to accept Russian help, Trump told Reuters on Wednesday afternoon that “many people would’ve had that meeting,” which he only learned about “a couple of days ago.”

By Wednesday evening, speaking to reporters aboard Air Force One en route to Paris, that timeline had narrowed.

“He had a meeting, nothing happened with the meeting,” Trump said, referring to his 39-year-old son as a “good boy.” “It was a short meeting as he told me—because I only heard about it two or three days ago.”

“As he told me, the meeting went—and it was attended by a couple of other people who—one of them left after a few minutes—which is Jared. The other one was playing with his iPhone,” he added. The iPhone fiddler apparently referred to Manafort.

In the same conversation, Trump conceded that he actually may have been told about the meeting with the Kremlin-linked lawyer, Natalia Veselnitskaya, at some point between when the meeting happened last year and when reports about it appeared in the New York Times over the weekend.

“In fact maybe it was mentioned at some point,” he said. But according to the pool reporters, Trump clarified that he wasn’t told the meeting concerned damaging information about his then-likely presidential opponent, Hillary Clinton.

Those subtle shifts in the President’s account are notable for several reasons: He describes the meeting as told to him by Trump Jr., and he claims he learned about it days after it was first written up in the New York Times.

That breaks sharply with what the Times has reported. In the newspaper’s telling, Trump himself signed off on a Saturday statement that his own aides crafted aboard Air Force One on the way back from the G20 summit and was included in the first article about on the meeting. After debating how forthcoming to be, Trump’s advisers ultimately released a statement that made no mention of the promised dirt on Clinton and said the meeting focused on a stalled program that allowed U.S. citizens to adopt Russian children.

The Times has also reported that Kushner personally notified Trump about the meeting “recently,” at around the same time that he added Veselnitskaya to the list of foreign contacts required to process his application for a top-level security clearance. Though two anonymous people briefed on the exchange told the Times that Kushner diminished the significance of the meeting in that conversation, his notifying the President would have had to predate the publication of the Times story that broke the news of the meeting to the public five days ago.

So what did the President know about what’s become shorthanded as the “Russian lawyer meeting” and when did he know it? For now, it’s unclear.

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President Donald Trump’s son-in-law and senior adviser Jared Kushner amended his application for a security clearance three separate times, adding more than 100 names to his list of foreign contacts, The New York Times reported Wednesday.

Kushner is currently facing heightened scrutiny for his meetings with foreign nationals after the revelation he attended a June 2016 meeting coordinated by Donald Trump Jr. with Natalia Veselnitskaya, a Kremlin-linked lawyer promising dirt on Hillary Clinton. He omitted all of his foreign contacts on the initial security clearance application that he submitted in January, which his lawyer called an error.

Lawyers who specialize in these forms told TPM it is not unusual for people to supplement them, but said that applicants try to appear as upfront and thorough as possible because they want to avoid the appearance that they are willfully concealing information from investigators.

“You don’t want to be contacting somebody every day to be saying, ‘Oops I forgot this. Oops I forgot that,’” Eric Eisen, a veteran government security clearance attorney, told TPM.

Kushner’s lawyers apparently recently discovered emails detailing the arrangement of the Veselnitskaya meeting while preparing for his testimony before Congress, and immediately moved to amend his list of foreign contacts, according to the Times.

When and in what way Kushner described the encounter to his father-in-law is another matter of concern. Two people familiar with the exchange told the Times that he met with Trump to discuss the meeting around the time he submitted the amended form, but that he downplayed its significance, promising that it would not create headaches for the White House. It’s unclear exactly when that conversation occurred.

Trump told Reuters on Wednesday that he knew nothing about the meeting “until a couple of days ago when I heard about this.” The Times first broke the news about it on Saturday.

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Donald Trump, Jr. is taking a lot of heat for the bombshell story about his meeting with a Kremlin-linked lawyer who promised damaging information about Hillary Clinton as part of a Russian government effort to help his father’s campaign. But another person present at that meeting was who ultimately set in motion the events that led to its public disclosure: Trump Jr.’s brother-in-law, White House adviser Jared Kushner.

The June 2016 sit-down with Russian lawyer Natalia Veselnitskaya was first brought to government officials’ attention when it was listed among the foreign contacts on Kushner’s amended application for a top-level security clearance, according to the New York Times. Kushner had initially omitted all of his meetings with foreign nationals from his SF-86, the questionnaire all applicants for national security clearances must fill out.

Once word got out within the government, the Times was informed about the development by people “familiar with” Kushner’s application. The newspaper published its first report about the Veselnitskaya meeting over the weekend, and then followed up with an increasingly damaging series of articles about it. The escalating stories prompted Trump Jr. to publish the entire email exchange leading up to the meeting on Twitter on Tuesday, laying out the details of what inspired the rendezvous.

Above, the section on the SF-86 form requesting disclosures of foreign contacts.

The emails showed Trump Jr. knowingly agreed to the meeting with an individual that a publicist and family acquaintance, Rob Goldstone, described to him as a “Russian government attorney” who had information that would “incriminate” Clinton. The information on offer was “part of Russia and its government’s support for Mr. Trump,” Goldstone wrote. Kushner and then-campaign chairman Paul Manafort were forwarded the entire email chain detailing the purpose of the meeting, according to the Times.

It’s unclear exactly when Kushner submitted supplemental information, or whether he did so all at once. As of early April, when some of Kushner’s other previously undisclosed meetings with Russian nationals first surfaced, his team said he was still working on gathering all the necessary information. Both the CNN and Times reported that the disclosure of the meeting with Veselnitskaya occurred “recently,” immediately after Kushner’s legal team discovered the email chain while preparing for testimony before Congress.

Manafort also had mentioned the meeting to congressional investigators during a recent closed-door interview, according to the Times. Both the meeting and the emails arranging it are now part of the investigation the special counsel’s office is conducting into Russia’s interference in the 2016 election, CNN reported.

Kushner’s White House spokesperson did not respond Wednesday to TPM’s request for comment. Nor did his personal attorney, Jamie Gorelick.

Kushner’s aides have previously told the Times that he holds an interim security clearance, which Sean Bigley, a federal security clearance attorney at Bigley Ranish, LLC described to TPM as a “golden ticket” that provides government employees with “the full level of access” needed for an applicant to perform his or her role.

Kushner’s failure to disclose dozens of contacts with foreigners, including the CEO of a Russian state-owned bank and the Russian ambassador to the United States, have prompted Democrats to call for his interim clearance to be reviewed or pulled entirely. White House spokeswoman Sarah Huckabee Sanders on Tuesday dodged questions about whether Kushner still had it.

When the Times first broke the news of Kushner’s omissions in April, Gorelick told the newspaper that they were made in error. Kushner submitted his lengthy SF-86 form prematurely on Jan. 18, Gorelick said at the time, and his office informed the FBI the next day that he would be providing additional information about his foreign contacts.

Kushner’s team apparently spent the last few months compiling that additional information and has since submitted it. Eric Eisen, a veteran government security clearance attorney, said most applicants file one additional disclosure detailing any information they may have missed as they want to appear as forthcoming and thorough as possible.

“You don’t want to be contacting somebody every day to be saying, ‘Oops I forgot this. Oops I forgot that,’” he told TPM.

Eisen and other lawyers who specialize in security clearance applications told TPM there is nothing unusual about supplying additional information, and noted that it can be subjective whether or not to include a specific interaction with a foreign national. But they said that it’s always better to err on the side of caution, and one former U.S. official pointed out that Kushner’s attendance at the Veselnitskaya meeting is exactly the kind of thing investigators would want to know about.

“The whole point is to understand whether there is something in your background that is either embarrassing or compromising in some way that means you cannot be trusted to hold state secrets,” said Derek Chollet, director of strategic planning on Obama’s National Security Council.

“Anything that you’re trying to keep secret or wouldn’t want out so [someone] could threaten you with blackmail, that’s basically what this is all about,” he continued.

What ultimately sways investigators’ decisions when considering supplemental information is whether that information was omitted accidentally or willfully concealed.

“The government usually in these cases will look at what would’ve been the outcome if we’d known that information,” Bigley told TPM. “If we’d known the information you failed to include, would that have changed the adjudicated outcome? The more serious the issue, the more they kind of view it with a skeptical eye on whether the intent was there or not.”

Kushner is sure to face questions about his omissions soon, from any number of questioners. Congressional investigators, the special counsel’s office, and, presumably, the investigator assigned to vet his final security clearance application all want to know about the exact nature and purpose of his contacts with Russian operatives.

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Federal and congressional investigators are looking into whether the Trump campaign’s digital team, under the leadership of the President’s son-in-law, Jared Kushner, coordinated with Russia to direct fake news stories to specific districts in swing states, McClatchy reported Wednesday.

Several of the people quoted by McClatchy, including the top Democrat on the Senate Intelligence Committee, Mark Warner (D-VA), noted that swarms of social media bots flooded the same districts that Hillary Clinton’s campaign famously overlooked—and Trump’s team targeted—with damaging, false stories about Clinton.

“There appears to have been significant cooperation between Russia’s online propaganda machine and individuals in the United States who were knowledgeable about where to target the disinformation,” Mike Carpenter, who earlier this year left a Pentagon post where he worked on Russia-related issues, told McClatchy.

Carpenter did not mention any U.S. individuals by name, but a source familiar with the special counsel’s investigation told McClatchy that Kushner’s “role as a possible cut-out or conduit for Moscow’s influence operations in the elections,” including his role overseeing the digital operation, is under scrutiny.

The House and Senate Intelligence Committee’s and the special counsel’s interest in the Trump campaign’s digital operations have been previously reported, and the House panel reportedly wants former digital director Brad Parscale to testify about his work for the campaign.

Investigators in both Congress and the Justice Department are interested in Kushner for a host of reasons, including his real estate company’s finances and his previously undisclosed meetings with Russian officials and operatives. In one revealed over the weekend, he joined Donald Trump, Jr. and then-campaign chairman Paul Manafort to hear from a “Russian government attorney” who claimed to have incriminating information about Clinton to offer as part of the Kremlin’s efforts to help the Trump campaign.

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Donald Trump Jr.’s June 2016 meeting with a Kremlin-linked lawyer is officially part of the special counsel investigation into collusion between the Trump campaign and Russia, CNN reported Tuesday.

Three U.S. officials familiar with the investigation told the network that special counsel Robert Mueller’s team only recently learned about the meeting, which Trump’s son-in-law and senior adviser, Jared Kushner, divulged on his recently amended application for a security clearance.

A separate U.S. official briefed on the matter told CNN that federal investigators will look into the sit-down that the President’s son agreed to have with an individual described by an acquaintance in an email as “a Russian government attorney” who had “high level and sensitive information” that would “incriminate” Hillary Clinton.

“I love it,” Trump Jr. replied in one of a series of bombshell of emails detailing the lead-up to that meeting, which he published in full on Twitter on Tuesday to the shock of the political world.

Both the emails and the meeting are now part of Mueller’s investigation, a source told CNN.

Kushner and then-campaign chairman Paul Manafort confirmed their attendance at the Trump Tower sit-down to The New York Times, but did not answer additional questions about it.

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Julian Assange on Tuesday claimed that he’d asked Donald Trump, Jr. to use WikiLeaks to publicly release emails detailing his efforts to obtain information about Hillary Clinton provided by the Russian government shortly before the President’s eldest son posted them on Twitter.

“Contacted Trump Jr this morning on why he should publish his emails (i.e with us). Two hours later, does it himself,” the WikiLeaks founder wrote on Twitter.

Trump Jr. published the stunning exchange with family acquaintance Rob Goldstone on his own Twitter account after the New York Times notified him that it had obtained the emails by requesting comment. The emails recount Goldstone’s efforts to arrange a meeting between Trump Jr. and a “Russian government attorney” who Goldstone said possessed “ultra sensitive” information about Clinton obtained as “part of Russia and its government’s support for Mr. Trump.”

Though Trump Jr. had until Tuesday withheld crucial information about his meeting with the lawyer, Natalia Veselnitskaya, he wrote that he published the exchange “in order to be totally transparent.”

Assange said that in his pitch for Trump Jr. to release the email chain through WikiLeaks, he told the President’s son that his “enemies” would “milk isolated phrases” in the emails “with their own context, spin and according to their own strategic timetable.”

He also suggested that Trump Jr. could be in more hot water legally if he self-published the emails instead of releasing them anonymously through a third party:

WikiLeaks published thousands of emails hacked from the Democratic National Committee and Clinton campaign chairman John Podesta during the 2016 campaign. The special counsel’s office is investigating whether the radical transparency site worked with Russian hackers to obtain and leak those messages.

Trump repeatedly professed his “love” for WikiLeaks during the campaign, celebrating the embarrassment the release of the DNC and Podesta emails caused the Clinton team.

Assange has spent the past five years holed up in the Ecuadorian embassy in London. He faces ongoing legal ramifications from a sexual assault case in Sweden that was recently dropped, and from publishing U.S. government documents on the site.

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After months of incremental reports about meetings and business dealings that President Donald Trump’s associates had with Russian operatives over the course of the 2016 campaign, the motherlode of news bombshells dropped on Tuesday morning.

Donald Trump, Jr. tweeted out what he said was his full email exchange with a family acquaintance who wanted to connect him with a “Russian government attorney” who could provide him dirt on his father’s likely presidential opponent, Hillary Clinton.

The answers to swirling questions about what Trump Jr. knew going into the June 2016 sit-down with the lawyer, Natalia Veselnitskaya, came into crystal-clear focus. The emails revealed that the President’s eldest son, his son-in-law, Jared Kushner, and his campaign chairman, Paul Manafort, attended a meeting that had been expressly billed to Trump Jr. as an opportunity to obtain damaging information about Clinton as part of a Russian government effort to help the Trump campaign.

Here are the most arresting details from Trump Jr.’s email exchange with that acquaintance, the music publicist Rob Goldstone.

The promised Clinton dirt was part of a larger Russian government effort to help Trump

Goldstone unequivocally says the “sensitive” information his contact has to share with Trump Jr. comes from the Russian government in their initial email exchange on June 3.

“Emin just called and asking me to contact you with something very interesting,” Goldstone wrote. “The Crown prosecutor of Russia met with his father Aras this morning and in their meeting offered to provide the Trump campaign with some official documents and information that would incriminate Hillary and her dealings with Russia and would be very useful to your father.”

There is no “Crown prosecutor” in Russia, and Goldstone may have been referring to that country’s Prosecutor General.

“This is obviously very high level and sensitive information but is part of Russia and its government’s support for Mr. Trump,” Goldstone continued.

When news of the meeting first broke over the weekend, Trump Jr. said his discussion with Veselnitskaya focused primarily on a program allowing U.S. citizens to adopt Russian children before admitting the next day that he’d attended the meeting because he was promised negative information about Clinton. Until he released these emails over Twitter, Trump Jr. had not acknowledged publicly that he knew ahead of time the person he met with was connected to Vladimir Putin’s government.

Trump Jr. said he’d “love” the oppo, “especially later in the summer”

If Trump’s eldest son was concerned about the source of the information he would receive, he gave Goldstone no indication.

“If it’s what you say I love it especially later in the summer,” Trump Jr. told Goldstone in response to his initial email, expressly noting that it would be more useful to have after the conventions were wrapped and Clinton was formally named as the Democratic nominee.

Trump Jr. also repeatedly thanked Goldstone for his role in orchestrating the meeting, saying he appreciated his “help” and his assistance “helping set it up.”

Goldstone made clear the meeting would be with a “Russian government attorney”

Goldstone identifies the lawyer’s country of origin in two separate emails. In one June 7 email, he calls her “The Russian government attorney who is flying over from Moscow.” In an emails sent the following day, he refers to her as “the Russian attorney.”

Trump Jr. has said he did not know the name of the lawyer before the meeting, and Veselnitskaya is not named in the emails he released. But he certainly knew where she was from.

Manafort and Kushner were forwarded an email outlining the meeting’s purpose

Manafort and Kushner were forwarded the entire email chain detailing the purpose and timing of the meeting, the New York Times reported Tuesday.

Their names are visible on one exchange that Trump Jr. tweeted. That email updated them on the time of the gathering, with the subject line “FW: Russia – Clinton – private and confidential.”

Manafort and Kushner both confirmed to the Times that they attended the meeting, but declined to answer additional questions about it.

Trump Jr. also highlighted their expected attendance in his exchange with Goldstone, writing, “It will likely be Paul Manafort (campaign boss) my brother in law and me.”

Goldstone was open to sharing the dirt with Donald Trump himself

Goldstone apparently considered routing the Clinton dirt sourced from the Russian government to the presumptive Republican nominee himself. In that same June 3 exchange, he proposed passing the compromising information along to Trump through his longtime secretary, Rhona Graff.

“I can also send this info to your father via Rhona, but it is ultra sensitive so wanted to send to you first,” Goldstone wrote to Trump Jr.

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After weeks out of the spotlight, White House aide Sebastian Gorka was trotted out on Tuesday to defend Donald Trump, Jr. amid reports that he tried to obtain damaging information about Hillary Clinton that he had been told was part of a Russian government effort to help his father’s presidential campaign.

He repeatedly alleged that the Democratic National Committee, not the Trump campaign, had actually colluded with a foreign government.

In a pair of lengthy, combative interviews on CNN and MSNBC, Gorka argued that Trump Jr.’s June 2016 meeting at Trump Tower with Natalia Veselnitskaya, a lawyer with ties to the Kremlin, was a “massive nothing burger” and “standard political practice.”

“She was a private lawyer who had an interest with regard to the Russian adoption program, and used a pretext to get a meeting with the campaign which the campaign representatives almost immediately realized was not done in good faith,” Gorka said on CNN. “That she had another agenda.”

“What’s funny is that they wanted the original agenda,” CNN’s Alisyn Camerota replied. “They wanted the dirt.”

“Which is what political campaigns do,” Gorka insisted.

Trump Jr. has said in public statements that he met with Veselnitskaya in the hopes of obtaining “helpful” information about Clinton, and that he cut the meeting short when it became clear he would receive no dirt about his father’s political opponent.

Pressed on specifics, Gorka repeatedly pivoted to criticisms of the Clinton campaign and the DNC.

“If there’s a meeting that was wholly appropriate but which led to nothing, let’s compare that to the DNC sending its people to the Ukrainian embassy to coordinate oppo attacks against our candidate,” Gorka told Camerota. “If you want to see collusion, it’s in the DNC. I mean it is up to their necks.”

Gorka appeared to be referring to a Politico investigation that was published in January and made the rounds on conservative media this week. The report centered in part around Alexandra Chalupa, a Democratic operative of Ukrainian extraction and a former consultant for the DNC, who on the side conducted research on Paul Manafort’s work in Ukraine. Chalupa told Politico that she shared her concerns about the former Trump campaign chairman with officials at the Ukrainian Embassy in Washington also shared some of her research with DNC and Clinton campaign officials during the campaign.

Chalupa left the DNC in July 2016 to concentrate her efforts on looking into Trump and Manafort’s Russia connections, according to the report.

According to Gorka, cable networks would be better served spending their time following up on that story or on what he said was a torrent of leaks that continue to flood out of the Trump White House. Clinton’s “home brew server” was another worthy topic for discussion, he proposed.

Camerota and MSNBC’s Stephanie Ruhle reminded the White House aide repeatedly that Clinton lost the election and Trump was now sitting in the White House.

Gorka also stopped by “Fox and Friends” Tuesday morning, where he spoke about Iraqi forces retaking control of the Islamic State’s stronghold of Mosul. He was asked no questions about the Trump Jr. story in that interview.

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Fake news.” “Fabricated lies.” A “great big nothing burger.”

For months, President Donald Trump and his officials have dismissed allegations that anyone associated with his presidential campaign cooperated with Russian operatives or officials to influence the 2016 election. Blaming the “mainstream media,” “the Democrats” and the “Deep State,” the Trump team has cast claims of collusion as a conspiratorial effort to undermine the President and diminish his electoral victory.

They’ve stuck to this narrative as reports have emerged about Trump associates and individuals claiming ties to the campaign communicating with, or attempting to make contact with, Russian hackers; about the President’s son-in-law trying to open up a secret line of communication with the Russian government; and about the President’s eldest son trying to obtain damaging information about Hillary Clinton from a Kremlin-linked lawyer.

And an emerging line from the Trump administration’s sympathizers is that if those contacts do amount to collusion with Russia, then collusion may not be such a bad thing after all.

Here are some recent revelations that, to hear Trumpworld tell it, amount to next to nothing.

Meeting with Kremlin-linked lawyer for dirt on Clinton

Donald Trump Jr. said Monday that he met with Natalia Veselnitskaya, a Russian attorney with close connections to the Kremlin, in July 2016 at Trump Tower in the hopes of obtaining damaging information about Clinton.

Trump’s eldest son initially said that the meeting, which his brother-in-law Jared Kushner and campaign chairman Paul Manafort also attended, focused on a defunct program that allowed U.S. citizens about Russian children. He later acknowledged that he accepted the invitation, made through an acquaintance, because he was told that the person he was meeting would share “information helpful to the campaign.” a

Trump Jr. and White House staffers have insisted this is just how the game of politics is played.

“Obviously I’m the first person on a campaign to ever take a meeting to hear info about an opponent,” he snarked on Twitter:

“The only thing I see inappropriate about the meeting was the people that leaked the information on the meeting after it was voluntarily disclosed,” White House deputy press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders said Monday.

Former U.S. intelligence officials and campaign operatives say there is actually nothing typical about meeting with a foreign national claiming to have compromising information about a political opponent and then concealing that conversation from the public.

Communications with Russian hacker who targeted the DNC

Roger Stone, a longtime confidante of Trump’s who spent a very brief stint as a campaign adviser, acknowledged exchanging private messages on Twitter with “Guccifer 2.0,” a hacker that U.S. officials believe is affiliated with the Kremlin and was involved with stealing and then disseminating emails from the Democratic National Committee.

Stone described the conversations as “completely innocuous” and “so perfunctory, brief and banal” that he didn’t recall them.

“This is does not constitute collusion,” Stone said. “I had no contacts with Russians. This one has been manufactured by the intelligence service with a nice assist from [billionaire philanthropist George] Soros and [Democratic operative David] Brock.”

The Wall Street Journal reported in May that Guccifer 2.0 complied in September 2016 with a Florida-based GOP operative’s request for stolen documents related to the campaign in the Sunshine State, handing over Democratic voter-turnout analyses for key swing states. The hacker flagged that same information to Stone. Stone acknowledged receiving the link, but said he didn’t share the stolen data with anyone else, according to the Journal report.

Effort to obtain Clinton’s private emails from Russian hackers

Claiming to have ties to senior members of the Trump campaign, a veteran GOP operative launched an effort last September to obtain emails that he believed Russian operatives had hacked from Clinton’s private email server, according to the Journal. Peter W. Smith told the computer security experts he tried to recruit for that task that he had connections to campaign adviser Michael Flynn and his son, Michael G. Flynn. Smith also cited other Trump campaign officials in a document he circulated to potential recruits.

“Smith routinely talked about the goings on at the top of the Trump team, offering deep insights into the bizarre world at the top of the Trump campaign,” Matt Tait, a cybersecurity expert contacted by Smith to validate whether a trove of emails obtained through a “Dark Web” source were really Clinton’s own, wrote in a recent post on LawFare.

The Trump campaign officials whose names Smith used in his recruiting materials, naturally, denied having any contact with him.

Proposal for a secret communications channel with the Kremlin

In December, Kushner and Flynn sat down with Russian Ambassador Sergey Kislyak at Trump Tower and proposed creating a secure and covert “backchannel” that would allow the Trump transition team to discuss policy with the Kremlin without the Obama administration’s knowledge. To Kislyak’s surprise, Kushner reportedly proposed establishing this direct line of communications and even suggested using communications equipment inside stateside Russian diplomatic facilities.

National security hands were stunned that a private civilian would take these extraordinary steps to establish contact with a foreign government. But the Trump White House, rather than deny the reports, argued that setting up a backchannel would have been a smart strategic move.

“We have backchannel communications with a number of countries,” national security adviser H.R. McMaster said. “What that allows you to do is communicate in a discreet manner so I’m not concerned.”

“I think any time you can open lines of communication with anyone, whether they’re good friends or not so good friends, is a smart thing to do,” Homeland Security Secretary John Kelly concurred. “I don’t see any big issue here relative to Jared.”

Trump boasts to Russian officials that firing his FBI director lifted “pressure”

One day after firing James Comey, Trump told top Russian officials that removing the “real nut job” former FBI director investigating Russia’s interference in the election took “great pressure” off him.

“I just fired the head of the F.B.I. He was crazy, a real nut job,” Trump told Kislyak and Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov during a chummy Oval Office meeting that was closed to U.S. press. “I faced great pressure because of Russia. That’s taken off.”

Trump seemed unfazed about undermining his administration’s line that Comey’s ouster was completely unrelated to the Russia investigation.

After all, who among us hasn’t fired a senior intelligence official investigating our closest advisers and relatives for possible financial crimes and collusion with a foreign government?

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LiveWire