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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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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No fewer than 62 Phoenix venues have turned down the opportunity to host Milo Yiannopolous, the Internet provocateur known for his cozy ties to white nationalists, for a “Free Speech Arizona” event, the Phoenix New Times reported Thursday. His visit to the southwestern city has been canceled as a result.

A spokesperson for the United Liberty Coalition, a far-right group that purports to “defend our Constitutionally protected liberty” and had invited Yiannopolous to speak, told the New Times that venues were scared off by security risks or simply disagreed with his views.

“We know that at least 20 of them pulled out or denied use because of fear of retaliation and violence,” United Liberty Coalition’s Shelby Busch wrote in an email to the publication. “A few of them denied us because they researched Milo and decided they did not want to be involved because of what they have seen on the news.”

The group subsequently issued a statement on its Facebook page lamenting that they had had to ask Yiannopolous to drop out because they were unable to guarantee the safety of someone of his “stature.” A quote from Yiannopolous included in the statement decries the ability of “left-wing bullies” to shut down conservative speakers and asks the U.S. government to uphold their duty to “defend free speech.”

Despite his protestations, the private venues that denied Yiannopolous a stage were simply exercising their right not to host him.

The Phoenix event’s cancellation is another entry in a parade of bad news for the self-described “most fabulous supervillain on the internet.” He blamed university censorship for the collapse of a September “Free Speech Week” he had planned to host on the University of California at Berkeley’s campus, but it turned out that his student organizers failed to file necessary paperwork and that Yiannopolous himself neglected to even extend invitations to some of the individuals he’d scheduled as speakers.

Then came a blockbuster Buzzfeed report detailing his extensive efforts to covertly insert white nationalist ideas into Breitbart’s stories and the mainstream discourse by proxy.

Yiannopolous is still in the middle of his “Troll Academy” tour, and his schedule claims he will soon travel to Australia for a string of events held at “secret” locations.

Those who already bought tickets to the Phoenix stop, spending either $27.95 for a discounted pass or up to $125 for a VIP pass that included an autographed copy of Yiannopolous’ book “Dangerous,” will receive refunds, according to a statement on his personal Facebook page.

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Former national security adviser Michael Flynn wasn’t the only Trump associate pursuing a sketchy, lucrative deal to tarnish the reputation of a U.S.-based cleric loathed by Turkey’s government during the thick of the 2016 presidential campaign.

Former CIA director James Woolsey did so, too, asking Turkish businessman Ekim Alptekin for $10 million to carry out a lobbying and public relations campaign targeting Fethullah Gulen, Reuters reported Thursday.

This is where things get weird. Woolsey was a member of Flynn’s firm, the Flynn Intel Group, and sat in on a Sept. 19, 2016 meeting with Alptekin to discuss how best to carry out its $600,000 contract to smear Gulen, which the two parties had entered into in August. The very next day, Woolsey held his own lunch meeting with Alptekin and his associate Sezgin Baran Korkmaz, where he asked for a much higher price to use his Washington, D.C. connections to help turn U.S. government sentiment against Gulen.

Woolsey’s apparent effort to circumvent Flynn placed two of GOP nominee Trump’s top national security advisers in contact with Turkish interests on a matter of high interest to Turkey: U.S. policy toward Gulen. The Turkish government badly wants Gulen extradited, which the U.S. has thus far refused to do.

Shortly after being forced out of the White House for allegedly failing to disclose the extent of his communications with Russian officials, Flynn and his firm in March retroactively registered as foreign agents for their work on the Turkey project. In the Justice Department filing, Flynn’s attorney, Robert Kelner, allowed that it “could be construed to have principally benefited the republic of Turkey.” That contract is one of many threads that federal and congressional investigators are looking into as part of their overarching probe into Russia’s interference in the 2016 election.

In an email memo seen by Reuters, Woolsey and his wife, Nancye Miller, offered to “draw attention to” the central role that Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan believes Gulen, who is based in Pennsylvania, played in orchestrating a failed July 2016 coup in Turkey.

A spokesman for Woolsey and Miller told the publication that the couple did hold the Sept. 20 lunch meeting at New York’s Peninsula Hotel but that it was “unremarkable” and the discussion did not focus on Gulen.

Alptekin had a different story, telling Reuters that the pitch did focus on the cleric and that he ultimately elected to keep his contract with Flynn Intel Group rather than going with Woolsey’s plan.

Woolsey went public earlier this year with a stunning account of the Sept. 19 meeting, claiming that he heard Flynn, Alptekin and Turkey’s energy and finance ministers discussing secretly spiriting Gulen out of the country “in the dead of night.”

Flynn has denied this version of events, and Alptekin told Reuters it was “fiction” and “all the more astounding” given Woolsey’s own efforts to obtain his business at the Sept. 20 meeting.

Flynn Intel Group is one layer of the connective tissue binding these disparate players. Another is the Nowruz Commission, a D.C. non-profit run by Flynn’s former business partner at the now-defunct Flynn Intel Group, Bijan Kian. Woolsey is an ambassador to the commission, while Alptekin serves as the commission’s vice chairman, a member of the board of directors and an ambassador representing Turkey. Flynn attended and spoke at a number of the commission’s annual events.

Special counsel Robert Mueller and various congressional committees are investigating Flynn’s work for foreign entities, including Turkey. Mueller’s team has reportedly looked into Kian, Flynn’s onetime partner, while Korkmaz, Alptekin’s associate, was recently subpoenaed by Mueller’s team.

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When a coalition of virulently anti-Semitic and white supremacist groups descend on two middle Tennessee towns Saturday for a day of “White Lives Matter” rallies, they say they will do so unarmed and with the intention of publicizing their views rather than clashing with counter-protesters.

But given the rash of violent incidents at recent white nationalist events and the rhetoric of some of the leading participants, civil rights groups and city leadership in Murfreesboro and Shelbyville are preparing for the worst.

“Look how much real violence and possibility for violence we’ve seen just in the last couple of events,” Heidi Beirich, head of the Southern Poverty Law Center’s intelligence project on extremism, told TPM.

Beirich described the groups involved in Saturday’s planned rallies as some of the most “hardcore” and “hardline” forces in the white nationalist movement, noting that one of the headliners, the neo-Confederate League of the South, has spent the last few years building up a “paramilitary force.”

“This isn’t the kind of soft racism of we want a white ethno-state,” Beirich said. “This is Hitlerian thinking.”

Scheduled speakers include the Traditionalist Worker Party’s Matthew Heimbach, white nationalist radio host Mike Enoch, League of the South president Michael Hill, and Vanguard America’s Dillon Hopper. A number of those organizations fly under the banner of the Nationalist Front, an umbrella group working to “unite pro-White organizations,” and several of those participants and groups are currently being sued by the city of Charlottesville, Virginia, for helping to spearhead August’s violent white nationalist rally there.

On optics, message, and openness to violence, these groups present a mask-off view that breaks from Richard Spencer and other figureheads of the so-called “alt-right,” who try to dress up their racist views by wearing three-piece suits and using terms like “identitarian” instead of “white nationalist.” The groups openly tout themselves as paramilitary organizations, with strict hierarchical command structures, that heavily arm themselves when permitted by state or local law.

The official event invitation put together by League of the South spokesman and white nationalist blogger Brad Griffin insists that this event will be different and allow them to “turn the page on Charlottesville.” Reminding participants that masks are forbidden by Tennessee law and that guns are “a legal liability,” Griffin argued that holding the event in a “red county in a red state without a Democrat governor” instead of a “shitlib” city like Charlottesville will reduce the chances of violent clashes with counter-protesters.

Police and local businesses have also taken steps to reduce opportunities for conflict. Law enforcement will cordon off the white nationalists from those who come out to rally against them, search those entering demonstration areas, and have released a list of prohibited items that includes firearms, flagpoles, and spray cans—some of the items that caused the most damage in Charlottesville. Many shop owners will simply shutter their stores, reducing the number of people on the sidewalks.

But the militaristic language is still present. The official invitation encourages each Nationalist Front organization to bring its own flag and “defensive” items, as well as follow its particular “dress code” (khakis are oddly popular in the movement). League of the South president Michael Hill issued a “directive” to his followers to turn out, while the Traditionalist Worker Party told its supporters that attendance “isn’t optional.”

Heimbach, that Traditionalist Worker Party’s founder, told TPM that the 200-300 participants he’s expecting won’t face much resistance because their followers “understand the importance of hierarchy, of organization” and their movement has a “large membership in Tennessee and in Appalachia in general.”

“It makes sense for us to hold our events where our people actually are,” he said.

The Volunteer State is, indeed, something of a hotbed for white nationalism. SPLC’s 2016 “Hate Map” found several small white nationalist groups headquartered in Tennessee, as well as Ku Klux Klan affiliates in nine locations including Murfreesboro. Tennessee state parks have been the site of a number of white nationalist conferences, including a recent summit organized by white supremacist website Stormfront.

Murfreesboro is almost 76 percent white, while Shelbyville’s white population hovers at around 62 percent. The state went solidly to President Donald Trump in the 2016 election.

But the expectation that residents will welcome Saturday’s event with open arms elides some key nuances. In recent years, Shelbyville has seen its Latino population grow and witnessed an influx of Muslim Somali refugees—a demographic shift that these white nationalists have spoken out against forcefully. Counterprotesters are also expected to show up, with a number of events cropping up on Facebook. The Anti-Defamation League’s Carla Hill told TPM that anti-fascist organizers are expected to come up from bigger regional cities like Atlanta.

Tight security measures also don’t mean that violence can’t break out. Shortly after Richard Spencer’s heavily-policed event last week at the University of Florida, three of his supporters were arrested and charged with attempted homicide after one fired shots at a group of Spencer protesters. (Heimbach told TPM he finds it “highly unlikely” that the incident unfolded as police and local press reported, while the National Socialist Movement’s “chief of staff,” Butch Urban, said that their groups can’t be held responsible for “independents who come out to all these rallies.”)

Another possible point for disruption are the “flash mob demonstrations” that Heimbach said they’re planning to organize at as-of-yet undisclosed locations throughout the day, which he described as part of a “political activist blitzkrieg on middle Tennessee.”

Whether or not any violence actually breaks out, Saturday’s events are representative of a chilling new normal of mass anti-minority events regularly disrupting daily life.

As the SPLC’s Beirich put it: “We’ve got Nazis marching in cities in America threatening violence. That is a shocking thing in 2017.”

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A few bizarre connections have cropped up since summer 2016 between Julian Assange, the founder of radical transparency site WikiLeaks, and allies of President Donald Trump, but a new report has unveiled the closest connection between Assange and the Trump campaign yet.

The Daily Beast on Wednesday delivered the news that Alexander Nix, head of the data-analytics firm that received millions of dollars from the Trump campaign, reached out to Assange about coordinating the release of 33,000 emails deleted from Hillary Clinton’s private email server, citing a “third party” Nix told about the exchange.

Assange confirmed to the Beast that he received an “approach by Cambridge Analytica,” the firm in question, and that “it was rejected by WikiLeaks.”

Congressional investigators reportedly are probing the work that Cambridge Analytica, a firm heavily backed by major Trump donors Robert and Rebekah Mercer, performed on behalf of the President’s campaign. The Daily Beast’s reporting is the first indication that a company directly hired by the Trump campaign tried to link up with WikiLeaks, presumably with the aim of damaging Clinton’s campaign.

Despite Trump’s public plea for Russia to obtain them and some freelancers’ best efforts to do so, Clinton’s 33,000 private emails never surfaced, and there’s no evidence that her private server was ever hacked in the first place. But the Daily Beast’s report spells out the strongest in a line of contacts Trump’s orbit has had with the founder of an organization that released tens of thousands of other embarrassing emails from Clinton campaign officials and top Democratic operatives during the 2016 race.

Roger Stone claims secret “back-channel communication” with WikiLeaks

In August 2016, about a month after WikiLeaks began releasing its trove of damaging Democratic Party emails, Trump’s longtime confidante and short-lived campaign adviser Roger Stone claimed that he had communicated with Assange about what documents the site would be making public in the future, including a mysterious “October surprise.”

Stone, an eccentric GOP operative and prominent Trump surrogate, later said that he hadn’t talked to Assange directly but instead had a “back-channel communication” with him through a mutual friend who traveled between London and the U.S.

On the same afternoon in October 2016 that Trump’s “Access Hollywood” tape was leaked, on which he could be heard saying he could grab women “by the pussy,” WikiLeaks started publishing emails stolen from Clinton campaign chairman John Podesta. Stone said he had no idea that the leaks were coming, although Podesta pointed out that Stone had predicted in an August tweet that it would “soon be Podesta’s time in the barrel.”

For its part, WikiLeaks has denied any relationship with Stone, insisting that there was “no communications, no channel.”

It’s unclear whether the Trump ally, who is under scrutiny in both congressional and federal investigations into Russia’s interference in the 2016 election, has provided congressional investigators with the identity of his intermediary to Assange after they threatened to subpoena him.

Earlier this year, Brexit figurehead Nigel Farage denied serving as Stone’s go-between. Farage stumped for Trump on several occasions, and visited Assange earlier this year at the Ecuadorian embassy in London, where he has taken asylum for the past five years after facing a sexual assault charge in Sweden.

Assange offers to publish Trump Jr.’s email chain with Russian operatives

Assange claimed this summer that he offered up WikiLeaks as a platform that Donald Trump Jr. could use to release an email chain on which the President’s son set up a meeting to receive information about Hillary Clinton that was described to him as part of the Kremlin’s efforts to help his father’s campaign.

“Contacted Trump Jr this morning on why he should publish his emails (i.e with us),” Assange said in a tweet. “Two hours later, does it himself.”

After a series of increasingly damaging reports about the lead-up to his June 2016 Trump Tower meeting with Kremlin-linked officials, Trump Jr. elected instead to publish the entire thread on his own Twitter feed.

Assange later offered more information on why he thought WikiLeaks would have been a better option.

“I argued that his enemies have it – so why not the public?” he wrote on Twitter. “His enemies will just milk isolated phrases for weeks or months … with their own context, spin and according to their own strategic timetable. Better to be transparent and have the full context … but would have been safer for us to publish it anonymously sourced. By publishing it himself it is easier to submit as evidence.”

Pro-Russia lawmaker meets Assange to talk pardon deal he wants to pitch Trump

After holding a surprise August meeting with Assange at the Ecuadorian assembly in London, “Putin’s favorite congressman” Rep. Dana Rohrabacher (R-CA) said Assange convinced him that Russia did not play a role in passing Democrats’ stolen emails to WikiLeaks.

Rohrabacher then spent several weeks boasting that he would provide the information he gleaned from Assange directly to Trump. The Wall Street Journal reported that he ultimately ended up making his pitch, which would offer Assange a pardon in exchange for information that would clear Russia of interfering in the 2016 race, to Trump’s chief-of-staff John Kelly instead.

Kelly reportedly directed Rohrabacher to the intelligence community, and, at least as of late last month, Trump appeared unaware of these backdoor maneuverings.

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