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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The Justice Department is considering charging six Russian government officials allegedly involved in hacking and obtaining sensitive information from the Democratic National Committee’s computers during the 2016 campaign, the Wall Street Journal reported Thursday.

People familiar with the investigation told the newspaper that discussions about whether to bring a case are in early stages but that it could happen as soon as next year.

As the report points out, the U.S. would be more likely to publicly identify those individuals and impose significant restrictions on their travel than actually attempt to arrest and jail them.

The case could shed light on how exactly the DNC’s computers were infiltrated. The U.S. intelligence community’s January assessment that the Kremlin “ordered an influence campaign” aimed at disrupting the 2016 race offered little detail on how intelligence agencies reached that determination and did not identify any specific actors involved.

The DNC case is a joint investigation by federal prosecutors and FBI agents based in Washington, Pittsburgh, San Francisco and Philadelphia, and is being conducted separately from special counsel Robert Mueller’s probe, according to the Journal.

The Russian government has denied interfering in the U.S. election, and President Donald Trump has cast doubt on the conclusion that the Kremlin was behind it, positing that other countries could also have conducted cyberattacks against Democratic operatives and organizations.

The Associated Press reported Thursday that Russian hackers’ 2016 targets extended far beyond the U.S. presidential race, targeting Russian opposition figures and U.S. defense contractors.

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Being under federal investigation hasn’t stopped former Trump campaign adviser George Papadopoulos from trying to advance his career.

Four months ago, shortly before he was arrested for lying to FBI agents about his contacts with Russian nationals during the campaign, he asked his followers on LinkedIn for their “thoughts” on him pursuing a congressional run. In October, around the time he pleaded guilty to those allegations, he expressed interest “in meeting with prominent publisher” and queried his LinkedIn connections for recommendations. And just a week ago, before his case was unsealed, Papadopoulos put out a call for “speaker bureau recommendations.”

This might seem like a remarkable degree of hubris for someone facing felony charges. But it represents a pattern for the 30-year-old Chicago native, who leveraged an inflated resume and the chaos of the crowded 2016 Republican primary into advisory roles on two major presidential campaigns.

On LinkedIn, a platform designed for self-promotion, Papadopoulos’ penchant for self-inflation stands out, dating back to his years at DePaul University, where he graduated in 2009 with a degree in political science.

Dick Farkas, Papadopoulos’ former professor and a Russia expert at the university, remembered him as a “nondescript” and not “particularly noteworthy” student who displayed no “particular interest” in Russian affairs.

Noting that Papadopoulos describes himself as concentrating on “international political economy,” Farkas told TPM that the school offers political science students no option for a concentration or specific regional focus and called it a “classic case of George embellishing his credentials.”

The listed phone number was disconnected at the Lincoln Square residence where the Chicago Tribune reported Papadopoulos currently lives with his mother and brother. A message left for his father, Antonios Papadopoulos, at his nephrology office in the suburb of Addison was not returned.

After receiving a masters degree from the University College London in 2010, Papadopoulos settled in Washington, D.C., where he claims on his LinkedIn to have spent some four and a half years as a “research associate” at the Hudson Institute, a conservative think tank. The institute told the Washington Post he was actually an unpaid intern who served as a contracted researcher to several fellows working on a book.

With just this thin resume and a few appearances at energy conferences abroad under his belt, Papadopoulos reached out to to Ben Carson’s campaign manager, Barry Bennett, through a LinkedIn message asking for a job, as Bennett recalled to the Post. Eager to beef up the campaign’s foreign policy team, Bennett told the Post he simply asked a friend at the Hudson Institute if Papadopoulos was an “okay guy” and brought him on board.

After a six-week stint with the Carson campaign, Papadopoulos was cut loose in January 2016 as part of what Bennett told the Post was an effort to reduce staffing costs.

How exactly Papadopoulos landed on Trump’s foreign policy team a few months later remains unclear. What’s known is that Sam Clovis, then the campaign co-chairman, was tasked with quickly pulling together a foreign policy advisory team, and that Papadopoulos’ name ended up on a list of five individuals that Trump announced were advising him on national security issues at a March 21 meeting with the Washington Post’s editorial board.

Court documents say that Clovis told Papadopoulos on March 6, shortly before he officially joined the campaign, that improved U.S.-Russia relations were a “principal foreign policy focus.” The young volunteer adviser seemed to take this advice and run with it, leveraging his new campaign title to communications with individuals he “understood to have substantial connections to Russian government officials,” according to his statement of offense.

One was Joseph Mifsud, a London-based professor of diplomacy, who Papadopoulos told senior Trump officials could connect the campaign with high-ranking officials in Russia’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs. Papadopoulos told the Trump team that another one of his connections was Vladimir Putin’s niece, though the FBI said the “Female Russian national” he met with actually had no relation to the Russian president.

Farkas, Papadopoulos’ former professor, told TPM he was skeptical his one-time student was actually making these kinds of high-level connections.

“I’ve traveled enough and I’ve studied enough about things Russian to know that he did not have the access he was claiming to,” he said.

In an interview this year, Papadopoulos told the Wall Street Journal he stayed on the campaign through the transition. His first interview with the FBI came on Jan. 27, just seven days after Trump was sworn in.

Though his recent LinkedIn queries suggest he’s continued to pursue a range of professional options while assisting the Mueller investigation, he currently appears to have no formal affiliation and is listed only as an independent “oil, gas and policy consultant.” In October, he tweeted a photograph of himself holding a briefcase on a London street with the hashtag #business.

The only current affiliation listed on his page is membership in the Cyprus-based International Presidential Business Advisory Council.

Contacted about this listing in August, the head of the organization, John Georgoulas, told TPM that “Papadopoulos is NOT a member of IPBAC, never was and we have never worked together.”

His claim to membership, Georgoulas added, was “weird and not true!”

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Muslims. Undocumented immigrants. Black Lives Matter activists.

These were among the groups targeted in the Facebook ads purchased by Russia-linked accounts during the 2016 election and released Wednesday by the House Intelligence Committee. Though the small number of ads made public make it difficult to confirm that the ads are a “representative sampling,” as Democrats on the committee claim, those released shore up reporting about Russia’s efforts to stoke American voters’ fears of their Muslim, black and Latino neighbors.

Four of the ads, from the page Stop All Invaders, disparaged Islam with messages about the need to “kick Sharia out of America” and the “security risk” posed by burqa-wearing women who could be terrorists in disguise.

Another pair of ads focused on undocumented Latino immigration.

“Border Patrol agents in South Texas arrested an illegal alien from Honduras that had previously been deported and convicted of Rape Second Degree,” read one ad from Heart of Texas written in garbled English.

“Thanks to Obama’s and Hillary’s policy, illegals come here because they wait for amnesty promised,” the ad, which appears to have been shared over 1,000 times, continued. Another sponsored image from what is billed as a “news & media website” called Secured Borders entices people to join their group with an image of a yellow road sign that reads, “No invaders allowed.”

There is also an anti-Black Lives Matter advertisement from a group called “Being Patriotic” which blames a “BLM movement activist” for “another gruesome attack on police.” While the text itself says that an East Boston man “critically injured” two officers, the image in the body reads “our hearts are with those 11 heroes,” suggesting the one ad may be splicing together information from separate incidents.

As TPM has previously reported, Black Lives Matter was a particular target in ads run by Russian troll farms during the election.

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Former Trump campaign co-chair Sam Clovis was questioned last week by special counsel Robert Mueller and testified before the investigating grand jury in the inquiries into Russia’s interference in the 2016 election, NBC News reported Tuesday.

Clovis served as the supervisor to George Papadopoulos, a foreign policy adviser to the campaign who pleaded guilty to lying to the FBI about his efforts to broker a meeting between the Trump team and Russian government, and who is now cooperating with federal investigators.

A person with first-hand knowledge of the matter told NBC that Clovis’ interviews occurred. Clovis’ lawyer, Victoria Toensing, told the network she would not “get into that,” but confirmed that Clovis was the unnamed “campaign supervisor” referenced in court documents about Papadopoulos’ plea.

In those documents, Clovis told Papadopoulos he’d done “great work” with his initial outreach to Russians who wanted to set up a meeting with the campaign. In Aug. 2016, Clovis also said he “would encourage” Papadopoulos to set up an “off the record” meeting with Russian officials in Europe “if it is feasible.”

Toensing told NBC that the campaign strictly prohibited staffers from making trips abroad on behalf of the campaign, but that Papadopoulos would have been allowed to do so in his capacity as a private citizen.

The FBI has said that no such trip ever occurred.

Hints that the FBI had interviewed other Trump advisers cropped up in the U.S. government’s motion to seal Papadopoulos plea agreement, which was among the documents about his case made public Monday. Federal prosecutors requested that details about the case remain quiet to allow campaign officials to be questioned before they learned that Papadopoulos was cooperating.

“The government will very shortly seek, among other investigate steps, to interview certain individuals who may have knowledge of contacts between Russian nationals (or Russia-connected foreign nationals) and the campaign, including the contacts between the defendant and foreign nationals set forth in the Statement of Offense,” the document reads.

The FBI agent whose affidavit was attached to the motion made almost exactly the same point.

Clovis is currently awaiting Senate confirmation before the Agriculture Committee to serve as the U.S. Agriculture Department’s chief scientist, though he is not a scientist.

White House Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders said Tuesday that she was “not aware that any change” in Clovis’ nomination would be “necessary at this time.”

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Former Trump adviser George Papadopolous’ newly-released plea agreement is littered with the redacted names of other campaign officials he allegedly informed about his efforts to hook them up with Russian nationals, making prosecutors’ claims rather hard to follow.

TPM’s design team has gone through the document and plugged in the missing names of those senior campaign staffers, as identified by the Washington Post, to make it easier to parse.

Per the Post’s reporting, the “high-ranking campaign official” was former campaign manager Corey Lewandowski; “another high-ranking campaign official” was campaign chairman Paul Manafort; “another campaign official” was chairman Manafort’s deputy Rick Gates. The “campaign supervisor” was campaign co-chair and policy adviser Sam Clovis, as his attorney confirmed to the newspaper. And one “senior policy advisor” referenced in the document has yet to be identified.

Check out TPM’s annotated document below:

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Given the lack of savviness with which George Papadopoulos tried to disappear a months-long effort to get Trump campaign officials in a room with Russian government officials who had “dirt” on Hillary Clinton, he may as well have been just a campaign “coffee boy.”

According to Papadopoulos’ guilty plea unsealed Monday, the former Trump campaign advisor attempted to conceal that work from the FBI, destroying records and lying to agents. So instead of landing what he billed to other campaign staff as a “history making” meeting between Donald Trump and Russian President Vladimir Putin, Papadopoulos’ back-channel dealings landed him federal charges.

His first missteps came during his initial interview with FBI agents in Chicago on Jan. 27. Papadopoulos’ statement of offense makes no mention of any counsel accompanying him to that sit-down, where agents informed him that the interview was “completely voluntary,” that lying to the FBI was a “federal offense” and that he could get “in trouble” for doing so.

Papadopoulos proceeded to tell all manner of falsehoods about the “extent, timing, and nature of his communications” with multiple individuals with close ties to the Russian government, according to the statement. One was that a professor with links to Russian officials who supposedly had “dirt” on Clinton approached him about said dirt before he joined the campaign, when in fact he did so over a month after Papadopoulos joined the Trump campaign.

Nick Oberheiden, a federal criminal defense attorney, told TPM that Papadopoulos’ false statements likely served as the “little mosaic pieces” that provided the FBI with the “slam dunk required to make it over the probable cause hurdle” to obtain a search warrant to dig through his online communications.

Once the FBI did, they found copious emails detailing Papadopoulos’ efforts to coordinate an in-person meeting between senior Russian officials and high-level Trump campaign staffers that directly contradicted what he’d told them.

As those communications made clear, growing scrutiny of Trump’s fondness for Putin, which escalated after the GOP candidate urged the Russian government to hack Clinton’s emails in a July 2016 press conference, didn’t dissuade Papadopoulos from continuing to try to organize such a meeting.

Papadopoulos went on to express eagerness to cooperate in a second interview with the FBI on Feb. 16, this time with his counsel present. According to the statement of offense detailing the case, the very next day Papadopoulos deactivated a Facebook account he’d maintained since 2005 that contained records of his communications regarding Russia; several days later, on Feb. 23, he stopped using his cell phone and acquired a new number.

Papadopoulos’ attorneys did not respond to TPM’s request for comment on whether he notified them that he would be taking those steps, which were later cited as evidence he was trying to “impede the FBI’s ongoing investigation.”

As Oberheiden, the criminal defense attorney noted, “I would not advise a client to delete Facebook or anything that may contain information regarding this investigation because then you really get into the obstruction of justice area and that’s a tricky offense.”

Trump and his allies have dismissed the notion that Papadopoulos could possess any information damaging to the campaign, arguing that the 30-year-old, who until recently listed Model U.N. as experience on his LinkedIn profile, was a “volunteer” and “coffee boy” with no real influence. But he was one of just five people Trump named as members of his foreign policy advisory team in March 2016, and emails show he was in frequent touch with senior campaign staffers, forwarding them lengthy chains detailing his efforts to set up a meeting with Russian officials.

And Oberheiden and other attorneys point out that the special counsel likely targeted Papadopoulos precisely because he was a low-level aide who would be easy to “flip,” convincing him to provide any information he may possess about other campaign staffers in exchange for a reduced sentence. The statement of offense notes that in the three months since Papadopoulos was arrested at Dulles International Airport, he has “met with the Government on numerous occasions to provide information and answer questions.”

Until the content of those conversations comes out, Trump’s team is reduced to arguing that the people the campaign named to advisory roles had no idea what they were doing.

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Asked Monday about the explosive indictment of two former Trump campaign officials, White House Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders responded with a familiar refrain, casting the pair as independent actors whose alleged misdeeds were entirely unrelated to the campaign.

“Today’s announcement has nothing to do with the President and nothing to do with the President’s campaign or campaign activity,” an indignant Sanders said at the daily press briefing of the fraud, money laundering and other counts against former campaign chairman Paul Manafort and adviser Rick Gates.

This effort to minimize their relationship with the campaign belies the facts, particularly in Gates’ case. Manafort’s business partner remained a key player in Trumpworld long after Manafort himself was forced out of the campaign over concerns about his work abroad. Gates coordinated behind-the-scenes preparations for Trump’s inauguration and served on a pro-Trump super PAC in the early months of 2017.

And as the Miami Herald reported Monday, a domestic entity listed in the indictment as one of the corporations Manafort and Gates used to hide foreign earnings even accepted a total of $70,000 from the Republican National Committee for “political strategy services” it provided in coordination with the Trump campaign, suggesting the line between Gates’ work for the campaign and his illicit dealings wasn’t quite so bright.

Gates and Manafort’s professional histories are closely intertwined. From their mid-2000s lobbying work for a pro-Russia Ukrainian political party, the source of many of the millions they allegedly funneled through offshore bank accounts, to the time they joined the Trump campaign in the March 2016, Gates served as Manafort’s right-hand man.

The pair was brought on to help wrangle delegates in Trump’s favor at the Republican National Convention, and did so from a box in Cleveland’s Quicken Loans Arena that the Daily Beast reported was nicknamed “The Eagle’s Nest”—a reference to a Nazi Party country home gifted to Adolf Hitler.

Manafort was abruptly forced from the campaign in August 2016 amid a flood of increasingly troubling news reports about his work for Viktor Yanukovych, the pro-Russia former president of Ukraine. But Gates stayed on, and ended up developing closer ties to those in Trump’s inner circle. As the campaign said at the time, he became the RNC liaison, working from both the party’s and the Trump campaign’s headquarters. Bade LLC, a company listed in the indictment as an entity used to allegedly hide foreign funds that the Miami Herald reported has an address associated with Gates, received $70,000 in three installments from the RNC dated Sept. 2016, Oct. 2016 and Jan. 2017 for work done in coordination with the campaign.

After Election Day, real estate investor and close Trump pal Tom Barrack enlisted Gates to serve as one of his top deputies on the Presidential Inauguration Committee.

Gates subsequently became one of six campaign aides to found a nonprofit called “America First Policies” aimed at furthering Trump’s agenda; he was forced out in March over growing questions about the work he did with Manafort in Ukraine. The group further tried to distance itself from Gates on Monday, insisting his association was “informal and limited.”

As the Daily Beast reported, Gates’ Trump connections helped him land on his feet and even get inside the White House doors through a gig working directly for Barrack. The millionaire Trump donor would routinely bring Gates along when he stopped by the West Wing for meetings with the President, according to the Beast’s June report.

It was around this time that Gates’ name resurfaced in the news, including in a memo to the presidential transition requesting all documents related to Russia, Ukraine and a number of campaign advisers and officials, including him and Manafort.

Gates also agreed to be interviewed by the New York Times for a profile, in which he said it was “totally ridiculous and without merit” to allege any collusion between the Trump campaign and Russia and insisted all of his work for Ukraine was “done legally and with the approval of our lawyers.”

He was ultimately indicted for a wide-ranging money laundering conspiracy and multiple violations of the Foreign Agents Registration Act.

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One cornerstone of former Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort’s elaborate alleged tax evasion scheme was his use of offshore bank accounts to purchase luxury real estate properties and subsequently take out cash mortgages on them, according to a federal indictment unsealed Monday.

The lucrative, multi-state scheme allowed Manafort, who was hit with 12 felony counts including fraud, “to have the benefits of liquid income without paying taxes on it,” per the indictment.

The 31-page document details a years-long circular arrangement in which the longtime GOP operative allegedly would use the funds from one mortgage to fund his next real estate project and keep his head above water. It also alleges that Manafort lied to banks about the terms of these loans so that he then could receive more money at more favorable rates than he would’ve received otherwise.

Above: Manafort made these wire transfers from accounts in Cyprus towards purchasing real estate.

In one instance, Manafort allegedly funneled $2,850,000 in cash from an entity he owned in Cyprus to purchase a condominium in Manhattan’s SoHo neighborhood, which he rented out for thousands of dollars a week through Airbnb and other rental companies. Because he could get a bigger loan on the mortgage he applied for if he used the property as a residence rather than a rental, he allegedly falsely told the bank that lended to him that his daughter and then-son-in-law lived there. He allegedly directed the son-in-law and his business partner, Rick Gates, to assist with this cover-up, and ultimately received a loan for $3,185,000 (Gates was indicted on 11 counts alongside Manafort).

Manafort also allegedly funneled $3 million in cash from an entity in Cyprus to purchase a brownstone in the posh Carroll Gardens neighborhood of Brooklyn and then set about renovations that would convert the building from a multi- to a single-family home. A bank promised more money for “construction loans” that were to be spent on renovations that would make the property more valuable, according to the indictment. Though Manafort ultimately received a $5 million loan after promising the bank he would use $1,400,000 of it solely for construction, he “never intended to limit use of the process to construction” as the contracts required, per the indictment.

He allegedly wrote to his tax preparer weeks before receiving those funds that the  influx of cash would allow him to pay off a separate mortgage in full, and Manafort ultimately used hundreds of thousands of dollars from the construction loan to make a down payment on a separate property in California, according to the indictment.

The SoHo and Carroll Gardens properties are among four that the U.S. government said Manafort would be required to forfeit if he is convicted for his alleged crimes. Another apartment in Arlington, Virginia and his home in the Hamptons are also on that list.

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Former Trump campaign adviser Carter Page will finally come before congressional investigators next week after spending months dismissing their probe into Russia’s election interference as a “witch hunt.”

The House Intelligence Committee announced that Page will appear next Thursday for an “open hearing in a closed space.”

A committee spokesman told TPM that arrangement means that no press or public will be present, but that his testimony will be unclassified and that the transcript “could be released in the future.”

Page did not immediately respond to TPM’s request for comment.

The energy consultant had fought with lawmakers for months over the terms of his appearance, penning long letters to the committee refuting comments made in public hearings on the Russia investigation that he also released to the media. Most recently, Page tangled with the Senate Intelligence Committee over documents and testimony requested as part of that panel’s probe.

NBC News reported that the committee ultimately subpoenaed him earlier this month. Asked about the report, Page sent TPM an all-caps response saying that he was “DEALING WITH MORE RELEVANT THINGS” like a defamation lawsuit he filed against several news organizations that reported on his contacts with Russian officials.

Those alleged contacts, which were surfaced in a still largely unconfirmed dossier compiled by a former British intelligence officer and commissioned by an unknown Republican client during the GOP presidential primary, are being probed by congressional and federal investigators.

The dossier reemerged in the news this week after the Washington Post reported that the Democratic National Committee and Hillary Clinton’s campaign continued to fund the research that resulted in the dossier during the general election.

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