The scandal surrounding President Donald Trump’s links to the Kremlin continues to unfold, and almost every week brings another major development. Michael Flynn has already resigned as national security advisor due to his evasions surrounding his repeated contact with the Russian ambassador in Moscow before Trump took office. Flynn’s resignation, however, is only one chapter in the series of disturbing revelations that make clear the sitting U.S. president appears to be brazenly beholden to Russian President Vladimir Putin on issue after issue. The following facts are indisputable at this point.
President Trump and his inner circle have an unusually close relationship with a broad range of shadowy Kremlin insiders
Michael Flynn is at least the third official associated with the Trump administration and earlier presidential campaign to be forced out of the Trump team because of their Russia links.1 Trump’s campaign manager Paul Manafort hastily resigned in August 2016 when the public learned he received large, secretive payments from a Ukrainian political group aligned with Russia.2 (Notably, Manafort remained in private discussions with the Trump team even after his ouster.) Former Trump foreign policy adviser Carter Page similarly quit advising the campaign in September 2016, after his web of shadowy Russia connections became a campaign issue, and he later acknowledged passing documents to a convicted Russian spy.3 Page also appears to have been under direct National Security Agency surveillance after a judge agreed that there were sufficient grounds to fear that he was acting as a foreign agent.4 In addition, Russian-born Boris Epshteyn, who served as an assistant communications director in the White House, abruptly left his post in March 2017. While no reason was given for his departure, it came amid mounting speculation that he too may have been caught up in the Russia investigation.5 U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions was forced to recuse himself from investigations of Russian interference in the presidential election after it was revealed that he had failed to mention his meetings with the Russian ambassador during the presidential campaign, despite denying under oath that he had any contact whatsoever with Russians during this period.6
The U.S. Intelligence community unanimously found that Russia interfered in the U.S. election
The intelligence community determined that Russia’s direct involvement was meant to help Trump’s campaign while hurting that of Hillary Clinton.7 The Russians assisted in the email hacks of the Democratic National Committee, or DNC, Clinton campaign, and other entities, and flooded social media with fabricated news stories and armies of paid trolls designed to defend Trump and attack Clinton. The Republican and Democratic leaders of the Senate Intelligence Committee acknowledged at a joint press conference that Russia hired more than 1,000 hackers for the express purpose of influencing the U.S. election.8
The FBI and other intelligence agencies are investigating Trump and his team for collusion with the Russians and potentially other illegal activities
As Federal Bureau of Investigation, or FBI, Director James Comey stated at a House Intelligence Committee hearing on March 20, 2017, the FBI’s investigation of Russian interference in the election “includes investigating the nature of any links between individuals associated with the Trump campaign and the Russian government and whether there was any coordination between the campaign and Russia’s efforts.”9 As Comey acknowledged, such counter-intelligence investigations often take considerable time due to their complexity. In addition, it appears clear that the finances of Trump and associates are also under scrutiny as part of this and potentially other probes, and Paul Manafort’s holdings in Cyprus banks were sufficiently irregular that they attracted scrutiny from regulators as early as 2009.10
There has been widespread speculation that the Russians have compromising material on Donald Trump
While obviously this remains to be proven or not, the potential that Russia possesses compromising material on Donald Trump’s personal or financial behavior featured prominently in the dossier assembled by Christopher Steel, a former British intelligence analyst, who fleshed out many of the initial links and connections between Trump and the Russians.
Trump has staked out a number of policy positions that almost perfectly mirror traditional Kremlin lines
While Donald Trump has been not only willing, but eager, to criticize longstanding U.S. allies like Germany and Australia,11 drawn comparisons between the U.S. intelligence community and Nazis,12 denied that Russia had already invaded Ukraine,13 and claimed that a key security alliance like NATO is obsolete,14 he has almost never said an unkind word about Russian President Vladimir Putin. The only issue where the Trump campaign team made serious efforts to change the party platform at the Republican convention was to strip out a provision recommending that Ukraine be provided with weapons to help defend itself against continued Russian aggression.15 Trump has cheered the United Kingdom’s departure from the European Union, or Brexit, and argued that the European Union should be dissolved.16 On issue after issue, he has hewed to exactly the position that is most advantageous to the Kremlin.17
The looming questions
All of these factors lead to a vital series of questions that need to be answered, under oath, to get to the bottom of Trump and his team’s connection with Russia. Given the tendency of the figures involved in this scandal to repeatedly change their stories in attempts to cover-up their activities, it is particularly important that these questions be asked under the threat of perjury. Nothing less than a full accounting of the facts can begin to lift the cloud that has descended over the administration as a result of its disturbing behavior. This issue brief explores the serious questions that should be directed at specific actors in this intrigue in hopes of further advancing the narrative and getting to the bottom of this very messy situation.
A retired U.S. Army lieutenant general and former head of the U.S. Defense Intelligence Agency, Flynn served as Trump’s first national security adviser for just 24 days—the shortest tenure in the history of the office. Flynn resigned in scandal as a result of his failure to acknowledge his contacts with the Russian ambassador and increasing questions about his unregistered lobbying efforts on behalf of foreign governments.18
- The U.S. intelligence community identified Russian television network Russia Today, or RT, as one of Moscow’s top purveyors of misinformation and propaganda regarding the 2016 election.19 When did you first report to the U.S. Army that you received payments of more than $45,000 from RT for your appearance in Moscow with President Putin?20
- Did you receive other payments from Russian-affiliated groups? When were these reported to the Army?
- Did you disclose to the White House or any other federal entities that you and your firm were still receiving payments from a Turkish group even as you were receiving classified briefing during the campaign and later the transition?21
- You failed to report the Russian payments and state that you were a paid lobbyist for Turkish interests on your initial ethics forms despite intense public scrutiny of these ties? Why did you fail to be truthful on these forms?
- Did the White House counsel or any other official raise the issue that you, in clear violation of the law, had not registered a lobbyist on behalf of a foreign interest—even as you were serving as national security adviser?
- Please detail the number of Russian officials and citizens you spoke with during the course of the campaign and the transition.
- How many conversations, texts, and other forms of communication did you have with Russian Ambassador Sergey Kislyak during the campaign and transition? Please list those incidences and dates.
- Were you authorized by any member of the U.S. government, Donald Trump, or any Trump associates to engage in these conversations with the Russians?
- Did you discuss U.S. sanctions or their impacts in any of these conversations with the Russian ambassador?
- What other matters were discussed?
- The Russians were widely expected to retaliate in kind when President Barack Obama imposed sanctions for the Russian involvement in the election. Would you care to speculate as to why they did not make such a move?
- Were you fully truthful with the FBI or other official investigators when you were contacted regarding the conversations with Ambassador Sergey Kislyak and possibly other Russian officials?
- Are you aware that making false statement to the FBI is a crime?
- Were there any discussions between you and Donald Trump or other Trump associates before the then president-elect praised Vladimir Putin on December 30, 2016—the day after you spoke with the Russian ambassador?22
- Both President Trump and Vice President Mike Pence, as well as you, maintained that there were no contacts with the Russians during the campaign. We now know that this was demonstrably false. Were either the president or vice president aware of these contacts?
- On January 26, 2017, the acting attorney general informed the White House counsel that you had not been truthful about your contacts with the Russian ambassador and that you therefore were a clear security risk. Can you describe the specific actions that were taken by the White House counsel or others in the administration in response?23 Did you lose your security clearance at this point? Were you penalized or punished in any form? Were you given any guidance by the counsel or any other officials in the administration about how to respond or communicate about the situation?
- After The Washington Post broke the story regarding your hidden calls with the Russian ambassador, White House spokesman Sean Spicer said that the president had been “reviewing and evaluating this issue on a daily basis” and that you had been questioned on multiple occasions.24 Please describe the dates and persons who interviewed you after the president became aware of this situation. Please also describe what you understood to be the review and evaluation process that the president conducted before news of the secret calls became public.
- Have you had any conversations with President Trump or senior administration officials since your resignation?
- You and your son have shared wild conspiracy theories about Hillary Clinton and her associates on social media, including the heinous false accusation that they were involved in a sex trafficking ring.25 Did you believe those allegations to be true when you shared them? On what basis did you make this judgement? Do you feel remorse given that a pizza parlor in Washington, D.C., full of families with children was invaded by a gunman who had been provoked to action by false social media accusations exactly like the one you broadly shared?
- Do you feel that individuals who share maliciously fabricated information should be held criminally liable for their actions?
- Given this opportunity, why don’t you urge the president to simply release the transcripts of all of your communications with Russian figures? If you indeed had nothing to hide, I would think this would be a rather routine matter.
- What grounds did the president cite in saying he had lost confidence in you?
- You rather famously suggested that anyone seeking immunity was guilty of a crime.26 Your lawyer recently sought immunity for you to discuss your actions with the FBI or congressional committees. What crime are you guilty of?
Michael Cohen is the personal lawyer, spokesman, and representative for Donald Trump and earlier served as executive vice president of The Trump Organization. Cohen admitted to have hand-delivered a “peace plan” for Ukraine and Russia—developed in conjunction with Felix Sater and a Ukrainian lawmaker, and partially shaped by Paul Manafort—to then National Security Adviser Michael Flynn.27 In his status as an unpaid personal lawyer to Trump, Cohen is not required to file ethics forms with the U.S. government.28
- The president and White House spokesman have said categorically on a number of occasions that President Trump and his affiliated companies have no investments in Russia and Russians have no money invested in him, his affiliated companies, LLCs, etc.29 As someone who is intimately familiar with the finances of The Trump Organization, can you verify that there are no links between President Trump’s or his affiliated companies’ holdings, properties, and investments and any Russian individuals, companies, shell companies, or holdings?
- Are any Trump debts held by Russians or entities close to the Russian government, or shell entities through which they operate?
- Bayrock Group, founded by former Soviet official Tevfik Arif, has put together large deals on Trump-named and Trump-managed projects, has been caught in long-running litigation regarding allegations that it is linked to Russian criminal syndicates and has engaged in extensive tax evasion.30 Have you ever come across any evidence or behavior that suggests these allegations may have merit?
- You were with The Trump Organization when the U.S. Department of the Treasury’s Financial Crimes Enforcement Network, or FinCEN, imposed a $10 million civil money penalty against Trump Taj Mahal Casino Resort for willful and repeated violations of the Bank Secrecy Act, or BSA—the largest penalty FinCEN has ever imposed.31 Were any of these improperly tracked transactions at the casino linked to Russians or other Putin associates or confidantes?
- Donald Trump Jr. has suggested that Russian investors “make up a pretty disproportionate cross-section of a lot of our assets.”32 How do you square that assessment with the president’s insistence that he has nothing to do with Russia?
- Do you have information or knowledge of any foreign government or individual being in possession of comprising information, videos, or other materials regarding President Trump or his family?
- Russian-born Felix Sater, a known criminal, has been closely associated with Trump SoHo.33 Did you ever express any concerns regarding entering into a business partnership with someone convicted of violent assault and securities fraud?
- Do you feel The Trump Organization and its affiliates fully met the requirements of the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act in its efforts to develop properties in Azerbaijan?
- When did it first come to your attention that the Mammadov family in Azerbaijan was corrupt? When did it first come to your attention that one of the companies involved in the project may have been a front company for the Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps?
- Please detail any instances where concerns were raised about organized crime ties among partners or investors in The Trump Organization?
- Are President Trump’s 2014, 2013, 2012, or 2011 tax returns still under audit? The U.S. Internal Revenue Service, or IRS, has said that, even if there is an ongoing audit, there is no prohibition on releasing tax returns.34 Do you feel that there are any good reasons for the president not to release his returns given that all of his predecessors in recent memory have done so?
- When President Trump returned from Moscow in 2013, he bragged that “almost all of the oligarchs were in the room” for a meeting with him.35 Please name those Russian oligarchs.
- You have given the press a number of conflicting statements regarding your role, along with convicted felon Felix Sater and Ukrainian lawmaker Andrii Artemenko, in bringing a Ukraine “peace plan” to the White House.36 Artemenko said he had received encouragement for his plans from top Putin aides. This plan apparently would have lifted sanctions on Russia in return for Moscow withdrawing its support for pro-Russia separatists in eastern Ukraine, and allow Russia to maintain its illegal control over Crimea.37 Can you categorically confirm that no money changed hands in Ukraine or elsewhere for the efforts to bring this so-called peace plan to the White House? Did you, Sater, or Artemenko receive any form of contribution or favor for back-channeling this so called peace plan to the White House?
- Are you aware of any other examples of instances where other Russian or eastern European officials or individuals have sought to use Trump business associates as an informal conduit to the administration?
- The Steele dossier claimed that you met with a Russian representative in Prague during the U.S. presidential campaign, which you have adamantly denied.38 Did you have any conversations with Russians either in person during the course of the campaign? If so, do you have reason to believe that records of these contacts exist in some form?
James Comey has been the director of the FBI since 2013. Previously, he served as U.S. deputy attorney general, and U.S. attorney for the southern district of New York. Comey currently leads the counter-intelligence investigation into Russian election interference and potential collusion with Russian interests by Trump and those in his orbit.
- Have your investigations to date included examination of financial records, transactions, and holdings related to figures associated with the Trump campaign and administration?
- If you came across financial irregularities or potential illegal actions by Americans during the course of this investigation, even if they were not strictly related to Russia’s involvement in the campaign, would you be obliged to pursue an investigation of these concerns?
- Would your answer also hold true for links or collaboration with known organized crime figures?
- Have Russian oligarchs and crime figures tried to launder money in the United States?
- What are some of the strategies that have been employed by Russians trying to launder money in the United States?
- Have these strategies included real estate purchases or moving money through casinos?
- As you may know, the Financial Crimes Enforcement Network imposed a $10 million civil penalty, its largest fine ever, against Trump Taj Mahal Casino Resort for willful and repeated violations of the Bank Secrecy Act and concerns that it was turning a blind eye to money laundering. Is there the possibility that some of the transactions that the Trump casino failed to report came from Russian sources?
- Have you intercepted any communications by any government, including Russia, that suggests they are giving The Trump Organization or its affiliates favorable commercial or economic treatment as a means to curry favor? Examples of favorable treatment could include the granting of trademarks in China or Russia, or granting favorable regulatory review to properties in places like the Philippines or Georgia.
- Given its direct bearing on the emoluments clause of the U.S. Constitution, will you commit to sharing such critical intelligence, if it has already emerged or emerges in the future, with the appropriate congressional committees in a secret setting?
- Russian-born Felix Sater has been convicted of assault for stabbing a man with a broken glass, and was later convicted of securities fraud. He has also been a close business associate of Trump’s through the Bayrock Group and served as a senior adviser to Trump in the troubled Trump SoHo project. As you know, Sater avoided major jail time by cooperating with the government and intelligence agencies after the securities fraud conviction.39 Has Felix Sater engaged in an activity that you would normally deem unlawful or illicit since he became a cooperating witness with federal law enforcement and intelligence agencies? Will you commit to sharing any information regarding such potential abuses by Sater in a secret setting with the appropriate congressional committees?
- Do you feel that all of the individuals associated with the Trump campaign and administration have been fully truthful during your interviews with them as part of this investigation? Would you consider a clearly false statement by one of these individuals grounds for a prosecution?
- If someone you are investigating had not been truthful on their disclosure forms and had been reprimanded for earlier failing to properly handle classifies information, would that set off red flags for an investigator looking at issues like links to foreign governments?
Sally Yates is the former acting attorney general under President Trump and previously served as the deputy attorney general under President Obama. Before her post in the Obama administration, Yates was the U.S. attorney for the Northern District of Georgia. Yates was fired by Trump, ostensibly for refusing to enforce the president’s first executive order on immigration, which was later ruled unconstitutional.40
- Could you lay out a brief timeline of when you became concerned that Michael Flynn was not being truthful about his multiple contacts with Russian officials?
- What did you perceive the risk to be at that point regarding Michael Flynn’s unusual behavior?
- Did the agency review Flynn’s disclosure forms? Did you find them to fully represent the breadth of his ties with foreign governments or his income from foreign sources?
- Doesn’t obfuscating about foreign contacts and foreign sources of income raise real red flags in any investigation, much less that of the national security adviser?
- Why would someone lie about something like that?
- In your distinguished career, have you ever had to approach a White House counsel with concerns regarding the truthfulness and potential loyalties of a national security adviser before?
- Do you believe that Michael Flynn discussed the issue of sanctions with the Russian ambassador or any other Russian national before becoming national security adviser?
- Do you feel the White House counsel and the president responded appropriately when it became apparent that the national security adviser had not been fully honest with U.S. Department of Justice investigators?
- Were you aware of other conversations between Trump associates and Russian officials or Russian nationals that you would deem as unusual?
- In looking at Russian interference in the election and possible collusion with Trump associates, have you also looked at financial ties in addition to tracking communications?
- In cases where an individual is subject to compromising material from a foreign power, is it not often the case that the actual compromising incident could have taken place some years before?
- Has it been your experience that the Russians are particularly aggressive in trying to gather compromising material on Americans that they might see as important assets?
- How do they go about those efforts in general?
- Would an individual who was impulsive or careless, particularly with things like extramarital sex, be at greater risk?
- What patterns began to emerge for you as you looked at the broad fabric of Russian interference in the U.S. election?
- Were you surprised that a major party candidate for president, Donald Trump, seemed to actively encourage Russian hacking efforts?41
Don McGahn is White House counsel for President Donald Trump and earlier served as chief counsel for the National Republican Campaign Committee and a commissioner at the Federal Election Commission.42
- At any point did you review Michael Flynn’s FS-86, the standard questionnaire for a national security position in the U.S. government?
- Did Michael Flynn indicate his payment from RT for a public appearance with President Putin in Moscow on this form? Did he indicate any other payments from Russian entities?
- In any of his forms or discussions with you, or other discussions in the administration that you are aware of, did Flynn discuss his lobbying efforts on behalf of Turkish entities?
- Were you aware that news reports of such lobbying were widely circulated before he became national security adviser?
- Did you ever inquire why he was not registered as a foreign lobbyist, as required by law, given his involvement in such activities?
- When acting Attorney General Yates informed you on January 26, 2017, that National Security Adviser Flynn had not been truthful about his contacts with the Russian ambassador and that he was therefore a clear security risk, can you describe the specific actions that you took at that point?
- Was Flynn’s security clearance suspended?
- How many classified intelligence briefings involving matters related to Russia did Flynn attend as the national security advisor even as he was under this cloud of suspicion, investigation, and having made clearly less than truthful disclosure statements?
- Was he penalized or punished in any form? Did you give any guidance, or are you aware of any guidance that was given to Flynn, about how he should respond or communicate about the situation?
- Why wasn’t Flynn fired for cause at that point?
- Were you, the president, or any other administration officials or Trump associates aware of Flynn’s conversations with the Russian ambassador before being notified by acting Attorney General Yates?
- Do you feel the decision to curtail ethics training for incoming employees and transition officials was sound given the numerous ethical lapses we have already seen coming out of the White House?
- A pair of White House officials, Ezra Cohen-Watnick and Michael Ellis, reportedly played a role in providing Rep. Devin Nunes (R-CA) with the intelligence reports that showed President Trump and his associates were incidentally swept up in foreign surveillance by American spy agencies.43 Given that the White House has spoken out so forcefully and repeatedly about the need to prevent leaks of sensitive information, were these officials authorized to release this information to Rep. Nunes and, if so, by whom?
- In mid-February, after the Flynn resignation, there were reports that White House Chief of Staff Reince Priebus contacted the FBI in an effort to have them knock down stories about the investigation of Russian contacts with Trump associates and officials.44 It is highly unusual, and untoward, to have the White House try to interfere with an ongoing investigation in such a fashion. Did you take part in any of these discussion with Priebus before or after this request was made?
- Given the Priebus efforts to have the FBI make statements about an ongoing investigation, and the efforts of Cohen-Watnick and Ellis to selectively leak information to Rep. Nunes, it looks increasingly like a pattern verging on the obstruction of justice, or at the very least efforts to help the public understand the full extent of Russian interference in the election? Can you make an unequivocal statement here today that anyone in the administration found to have interfered with the FBI-led investigation, or to have been less than truthful with investigators, will be dismissed?
- Have you personally reviewed President Trump’s tax returns?
- President Trump and White House spokesman Sean Spicer have repeatedly asserted that there are no ties between Russia and President Trump. Can you verify that there are no links between President Trump’s or his affiliated companies’ holdings and investments and any Russian individuals, companies, shell companies, or holdings?
- If you can make this assertion, why not back it up with the disclosures that would make clear this is true?
- If you are unable or unwilling to assert that the president’s holdings are free of Russian connections, doesn’t Congress have every right to be concerned that the president is in violation of the emoluments clause of the Constitution?
- Please provide us, in writing, with the guidelines that have been issued to the president and his sons regarding how, when, and in what capacity the president or his sons can discuss business matters.
- Have you ever heard or been witness to any conversation, intelligence, or communication that suggests that any foreign government has tried to curry favor with the president or the administration by giving any Trump- or Kushner-related business favorable treatment?
- Do you believe the president has the unilateral authority to order wiretaps on political opponents? Do you believe that President Obama possessed this authority?
- Was staff time at the White House dedicated to trying to find examples of the Obama administration ordering wiretaps on President Trump after the president made the baseless claim that he had been tapped by Obama?45
- Did you authorize White House or other staffers to meet and discuss intercepts with Rep. Nunes?
- Who authorized the congressman’s entry into the White House grounds?
- Was National Security Advisor H.R. McMaster fully informed of the decision to brief Nunes and the contents on which he would be briefed?
- Have either Ezra Cohen-Watnick, senior director for intelligence at the National Security Council, or Michael Ellis, a lawyer in the White House Counsel’s office who formerly worked for the House Intelligence Committee, who helped provide Nunes with this information had any discussions with White House Chief Strategist Steve Bannon as part of their review of intelligence information?
- Given that it appears White House staff directly briefed Nunes on these intercepts, why set up the elaborate charade that Nunes had to brief the president on these findings when you were already in possession of them?
- In their review of intelligence materials have either Ezra Cohen-Watnick or Michael Ellis approached you or any other member of the White House staff, or the president himself, with any information related to, or that has bearing upon, the FBI-led investigation into the Russian election interference and possible collusion with Trump and his associates?
- Have you or other White House officials reviewed the transcripts of the conversations between Flynn and the Russian Ambassador?
- What about other transcripts between Trump associates and Russians?
- Who on the White House staff has been interviewed by the FBI as part of the ongoing investigation and on what dates?
- If there is truly nothing to hide in these conversations between Trump associates and Russians, why not just declassify all of these materials and be done with it?
Donald Trump Jr.
Donald Trump Jr. is President Trump’s eldest son and current executive vice president of The Trump Organization. Shortly before the election, he was paid an undisclosed amount to attend and speak at a private dinner in Paris hosted by a relatively unknown pro-Russia think tank.46 He also traveled to Moscow six times in one 18-month period alone, and has been a key player in cultivating links between Russia and The Trump Organization.47 He declared in 2008 of the Trump business empire, “Russians make up a pretty disproportionate cross-section of a lot of our assets. We see a lot of money pouring in from Russia.”48
- After your father’s companies had gone through six successive bankruptcies, is it fair to say that most American banks became quite reluctant to lend to The Trump Organization and its associated businesses?
- Around this same time, there were massive illicit financial outflows from Russia and oil-rich former Soviet countries such as Kazahkstan and Azerbaijan, and that money must have seemed very attractive for an organization that was badly in need of an infusion of capital. During one 18-month period you traveled to Russia six times.49 Please describe the nature of your business on those trips.
- Your father bragged about meeting almost all of the top Russian oligarchs during one of his trips with you to that country.50 Please list these oligarchs.
- Are you aware of any efforts by the Russian government or Russian individuals to gather compromising information on you, your father, or anyone in the Trump organization?
- Are there any materials from your and your father’s time in Russia that would be embarrassing or damaging if they leaked out?
- Did you or any of your associates, ever engage in discussions with anyone you have reason to believe is affiliated with Russian intelligence either in Russia or the United States?
- You have said, “Russians make up a pretty disproportionate cross-section of a lot of our assets,” and “We see a lot of money pouring in from Russia.”51 Your father, however, has repeatedly insisted that he has no business ties with Russia. Please explain this contradiction.
- Is any of the The Trump Organization’s debt held by entities, individuals, institutions from the former Soviet Union or its cutouts?
- Are you aware of any instance in Russia, or elsewhere, where a foreign government granted favorable treatment to a Trump- or Kushner-related business in an effort to curry favor with the administration?
- Do you have reason to believe that any of your conversations with foreign nationals have been captured on intercepts of foreign espionage targets?
- Did you have any conversations with foreign nationals from countries in the former Soviet Union or their intermediaries about the U.S. presidential election?
- Do you have reason to believe that anyone associated with the campaign had conversations with foreign nationals from countries in the former Soviet Union or their intermediaries about the U.S. presidential election?
- Have you been interviewed by the FBI or other intelligence agencies as part of the Russia investigation?
- Three weeks before Election Day, you spoke at a private dinner in Paris organized by an obscure pro-Russia group that promotes Kremlin foreign policy initiatives and has since nominated Vladimir Putin for the Nobel Peace Prize.52 How much were you compensated by this pro-Russian group for this trip?
- Why would you think it so important to leave the campaign trail to go speak to a pro-Russian front group?
- When did you first become aware of Felix Sater’s lengthy criminal history?
- Felix Sater accompanied you on a trip to Moscow. Could you please list all the individuals you met with during that trip?
- Your father asked Sater to accompany you on that journey. How do you explain your father’s statement in a deposition that he would barely recognize Sater when they were clearly engaged in extensive business dealings together, Sater was authorized to identify himself as a Trump Organization representative when pitching deals, they appeared on stage together multiple times, and maintain offices in the same building?53
- Trump Taj Mahal Casino Resort paid a record fine for willful and repeated violations of the Bank Secrecy Act and concerns that it was turning a blind eye to money laundering.54 Is there the possibility that some of the transactions that the Trump casino failed to report came from Russian sources?
- In 2014 Russian mobster Anatoly Golubchik went to jail for running an illegal gambling operation out of Trump Tower—an operation so massive it reportedly took up the entire 51st floor of the building. Also reportedly involved was alleged mobster Alimzhan Tokhtakhunov, who appeared on the Forbes 2008 list of the world’s most wanted criminals. Even as this gambling ring was still operating in Trump Tower, Tokhtakhunov reportedly went to Moscow to attend Donald Trump’s 2013 Miss Universe contest as a special VIP.55 Please explain when you first learned about the Russian gambling ring in Trump Tower, and how Tokhtakhunov came to be invited to the Miss Universe pageant.
- Do you have reason to believe that any investment by Russian sources in Trump properties have been an attempt to launder funds?
- How often have you and your father discussed business interests since he became president? Please detail the steps you have taken to avoid conflicts of interests.
- Would you describe your father’s holdings as being in a blind trust?
Jared Kushner is Donald Trump’s son-in-law and senior adviser. During the transition, Kushner arranged multiple meetings with Russian Ambassador Sergey Kislyak. Kushner also met with Sergey N. Gorkov, the head of Russia’s state-owned development bank Vnesheconombank, or V-Bank, which is currently on the U.S. sanctions list.56
- Your roles in the White House have been listed to include the Middle East peace process, Mexico, government restructuring, the opioid crisis, preparation for the China meeting, parts of health care, and veterans affairs.57 Is that correct?
- Is it fair to say that you enjoy a fairly unique relationship with the president that gives you fairly unprecedented access across this range of issues?
- It also seems that you have had a wide array of contacts with foreign dignitaries during both the transition and during the administration. Is that correct?
- According to your financial disclosures, you and your wife have property and investment holdings worth as much as $740 million.58 Is that also correct?
- Can you list the specific instances when you have recused yourself from issues discussed at the White House because of potential conflicts with your holdings? Please be specific in terms of the dates and issues where you have recused yourself.
- You neglected to list your contacts with Russian officials on your disclosure forms, which is a potential crime. Why is it that everyone in the administration seems to have amnesia when it comes to their Russia contacts?
- Do you feel that the Russians interfered in the U.S. election last year?
- During the transition period you met with Russian Ambassador Sergey Kislyak.59 Why did you wait so long to reveal this meeting at a time when the president continued to insist there had been no contacts with the Russians, and coming forth only after Attorney General Sessions was forced to recuse himself from the FBI Russia investigation for being less than truthful about his own multiple contacts with senior Russian officials during the campaign?
- What was discussed at this meeting?
- You then subsequently met with Sergey N. Gorkov, chief of V-Bank.60 Are you aware that V-Bank has been used as a frequent cover for Russian intelligence services, including an agent who actively tried to recruit Carter Page, one of the very first foreign policy advisers announced by Donald Trump during the campaign?
- Are you also aware that Sergey N. Gorkov is a graduate of the Federal Security Service of Russia, a key Russian espionage training ground?
- Gorkov indicated that he met with you in your capacity as the chief executive of Kushner Companies, rather than as a presidential transition official. You have insisted that this was not the case. How is it that the line between your official duties and your business interests is so poorly defined that two participants in the same meeting cannot even agree in what capacity you were undertaking these discussions?
- Were there any discussions whatsoever of Kushner properties or other business interests in that meeting—including the property at 666 Fifth Avenue, which is badly overleveraged and in need of additional investment?
- Have you observed or been given any evidence whatsoever that any foreign government, including Russia, China, and any other state, has given Trump or Kushner business interests favorable treatment as a means to curry favor with the administration?
- Did you have any advance knowledge, or are you aware of anyone in the White House, that had advance knowledge of Erik Prince’s meetings in the Seychelles with a close Putin associate about Iran, sanctions, and other issues?61
- As someone who is now part of the Trump family and inner circle, can you say under oath that no Russian individuals, entities, or shell companies are active in any Trump Organization holdings, ventures, or properties, or hold significant amounts of debt for The Trump Organization?
- How about for Kushner-related companies, properties, and investments?
- Please detail any conversations that you are aware of having occurred during the campaign period between Donald Trump, his associates, or campaign officials and Russian individuals or entities.
- Please detail your involvement in Trump SoHo, the deeply troubled project that has faced a continued series of lawsuits related to Bayrock Group and potential tax evasion.
- The Kushner business has participated in roughly $7 billion in acquisitions in the last decade, a remarkable spending spree.62 Some background on the company would seem to be helpful. The company was founded by your grandfather. You took control of the company after your father was sentenced to two years in prison for tax evasion, witness tampering, and making illegal campaign donations. Is that correct?
- Would you say that foreign investment has been crucial to your business? For example, is it correct that Russian billionaire tech investor Yuri Milner and the Chinese billionaire founder of Alibaba, Jack Ma, helped invest in Cadre, a tech related real estate investment venture?63
- Was Alisher Usmanov also involved in this investment? Have you been involved in other investments with him, or has he been a source of other financing?
- Do you think that one could become Russia’s richest man, as has Usmanov, without being in the very good graces of President Putin?
- Isn’t it also true that one of the newest Kushner projects—a Trump-branded luxury apartment tower that opened in November in Jersey City, New Jersey—got nearly one-quarter of its financing, about $50 million, from Chinese investors who are not publicly identified? 64
- You have also worked closely with the Chinese company Anbang Insurance Group, which was blocked from acquiring the Hotel del Coronado in San Diego because the Committee on Foreign Investment in the United States, or CFIUS, was concerned with the Chinese acquiring a property so close to a U.S. naval base.65 Is that correct?
- Isn’t it also true that, when the Chinese government was upset with Donald Trump for speaking with the president of Taiwan on the phone, they passed a message through you? Isn’t it also true that this message was passed at a moment when Kushner Companies was directly involved in discussions with Anbang and other Chinese investors?
- You have also been seen at the US Open with Dasha Zhukova, wife of the Russian oligarch Roman Abramovich, a member of President Vladimir Putin’s inner circle.66 Please describe your relationship and any business ventures into which you have entered or any investments or financing you have received from Abramovich or his associates.
- Given your extensive network of Russian investors and partners, isn’t it fair to say that you have worked with some of Russia’s most important and politically oligarchs for a matter of years?
One of the very first names Donald Trump cited as a key foreign policy adviser during the campaign, Page is a former adviser to Gazprom—the state-owned Russian gas company—and continues to be probed regarding whether he held private communications with senior Russian officials during the election campaign regarding Russian hacking and the lifting of sanctions.67 Page continues to deny these claims, but was quick to dismiss the Russian hacking and disinformation campaigns as a “false flag” operation.68 Page recently admitted to having met with a Russian intelligence agent in 201369 and has also made clear that Trump’s election would significantly boost the fortunes of some of his Russian confidants who have been hit by U.S. sanctions as a result of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.70 He has also been identified in press reports as being under direct surveillance after intelligence agencies had a warrant approved to monitor Page because they had sufficient grounds to believe he was acting on behalf of a foreign government.
- You have repeatedly gone out of your way to deny contacts with Russian intelligence officials, but the record seems to tell a different story. In 2013, you were caught on tape by the FBI in their investigation of Russian espionage agents working out of New York City.71 You met with Victor Podobnyy, who was convicted of espionage for the Russians. How many times did you meet with Podobnyy?
- What documents did you pass to him?
- Describe the types of financial opportunities that he described in Russia.
- Were you interested in those financial opportunities?
- So you admit that you met with, were recruited by, and passed documents to Russian spies?
- Are you aware that some of these spies were using the Russian V-Bank as their cover?
- Donald Trump announced your role as one of his very first key foreign policy advisors, saying, “I have a team, we actually have a very good team,” calling it, “a top-of-the-line team.”72 Tell us when you first became associated with the Trump campaign? How were you introduced to the campaign and by whom?
- Is it correct that in February of this year you said you “had no contacts” with any Russian officials during the course of the campaign in an interview with PBS?73
- You subsequently admitted that you met with the Russian ambassador during the Republican National Convention in Cleveland, is that correct?
- Have you ever met Igor Sechin, a key Putin ally, former intelligence official, and head of Rosneft?
- Have you had any discussion of, or received any compensation as a result of, transactions related to Rosneft?
- What other Russian officials have you neglected to acknowledge meeting?
- Please list all of those individuals you met with during your summer 2016 trip to Moscow.
- Please list all Russia individuals, companies, and institutions from which you have received any sorts of payments or revenues, as well as the dates and amounts of those payments.
- Does your company, Global Energy Capital, have any investments from Russian sources? What are those sources?
- During the presidential campaign, you delivered a speech in Moscow that harshly criticized the United States and other Western nations for a “hypocritical focus on ideas such as democratization, inequality, [and] corruption.”74 That is obviously a line of thinking that President Putin has often espoused himself. How much were you paid for this speech?
- How many times have you, or your speaking appearances, been featured on the Russian propaganda network RT?
- Why did you cut your ties with the Trump campaign?
- Did you continue to have discussions with any Trump associates even after that time?
- On what grounds do you think the FBI and a judge had sufficient reason to believe you were acting on behalf of a foreign power that they approved a FISA warrant to have you monitored?
A former Trump campaign chairman and political consultant and lobbyist, Paul Manafort was recently alleged to have been secretly working for Russian billionaire and close Putin ally, Oleg Deripaska, to push forth a plan to benefit the Putin government. Manafort was reportedly paid $10 million annually beginning in 2006 for his work on this plan.75 He was forced to resign as Trump’s campaign chairman after reports surfaced that he illegally received more than $12 million in undisclosed payments from former Ukraine president and pro-Russia ally Viktor Yanukovych before Yanukovych fled into exile in Russia.76
- During your long lobbying career, you have had some very well-known clients, including dictators such as Mobutu Sese Seko in Zaire; Manuel Noriega in Panama; Ferdinand Marcos in the Philippines; Jonas Savimbi in Angola; and Siad Barre in Somalia. One trait that ties this group of people together, other than their brutal rules, is the fact that all of them stashed enormous amounts of money in shady off-shore accounts. Would you agree with that characterization?
- Earlier in your career you were partners with the Nixon administration dirty trickster Roger Stone, who has admitted communicating directly with Guccifer 2.0, a Russian asset widely identified as carrying out some of the hacks on Democratic targets in the campaign. Is that correct?
- How long have you known Donald Trump?
- What was the first paid work that you did for Trump or The Trump Organization?
- You have said in a statement that you “never had any connection to Putin or the Russian government—either directly or indirectly—before during or after the campaign.”77 Yet, isn’t it true that you have worked for years for with aluminum magnate Oleg Deripaska, described in U.S. diplomatic cables from 2006 as “one of 2-3 oligarchs Putin turns to on a regular basis” —and who was once denied entry to the United States because of alleged organized crime ties?78 And isn’t true that you also worked extensively for a very pro-Russia Ukrainian political party that was often viewed as taking its marching order from the Kremlin?
- It has been reported that you proposed in a confidential strategy plan as early as June 2005 to Deripaska that you could influence politics, business dealings, and news coverage inside the United States, Europe and former Soviet republics to benefit President Vladimir Putin’s government.79 Is that correct?
- Your former partner, Rick Gates, said he was not aware of the massive $10 million contract with Deripaska or the nature of the work you were undertaking for this oligarch. Given the size of this contract, is the public supposed to plausibly believe that your partner was completely unaware of what was being undertaken?
- At one point you were reportedly associated with at least 15 bank accounts and 10 companies on Cyprus, dating back to 2007. At least one of those companies was used to receive millions of dollars from a billionaire Putin ally, Oleg Deripaska, with whom you have a longstanding relationship. The transactions in some of your accounts—including receiving a payment of $1 million that left the account on the same day, often a sign of money laundering—set off investigations into your accounts, which you then closed very soon after.80 Why were you moving such large sums of money through Cyprus, a country with notoriously lax banking laws, and were your sources of income and these transactions fully reported to U.S. authorities at the time?
- You worked for years advising the pro-Russia Party of Regions in Ukraine, helping it rise to power under President Viktor Yanukovych, who was ousted in 2014. There have been allegations you laundered $12 million of payments from the party using offshore accounts in Belize and Kyrgyzstan.81 Did you ever receive any cash for your work for this pro-Russian party? Were all your sources of income in Ukraine fully reported to U.S. authorities?
- You initially insisted that the ledger indicating these payments was fake. Yet, some of these same payments and entries in the ledger appear to have been verified? Why did you insist the ledger was fake if it included payments you knew you had received through offshore accounts?
- Why did you make several trips to Kiev between the end of your consulting work there in 2014 and late 2015?
- How did you come to be campaign chairman for Donald Trump?
- You have developed a reputation as a highly mercenary political operative, selling your services to the highest bidder regardless of their considerable moral and political baggage. Yet you offered to work for the Trump campaign for free. Why?
- White House spokesman Sean Spicer said that you “played a very limited role for a very limited amount of time” in the presidential campaign.82 Would you say that serving as a presidential campaign chairman, including during the Republican National Convention, is a “very limited role?” Isn’t this just a transparent effort by the administration to distance itself from you?
- Did you discuss Carter Page’s summer trip to Moscow at any with him or other Trump campaign officials or associates?
- Why did you believe he was making this trip?
- Explain your role in excising the language from the Republican Party platform that supported providing Ukraine with lethal assistance. Why was this the only piece of language in the platform that you and others on the Trump campaign seemed to care about?
- After you left the campaign, did you have any discussions with Donald Trump about the Steele Dossier? If so, please tell us about those conversations.
- Did you have contact during the campaign with representatives of the Russian government or their associates?
- The New York Times and other outlets have stated clearly that you were one of the Trump advisers picked up on calls “with senior Russian intelligence officials in the year before the election.”83 Why would anyone from an American presidential campaign be in contact with senior Russian intelligence officials in the middle of the campaign?
- The Russians used hacking and a flood of fake news stories to influence the election. Did you ever encourage a conservative media outlet, website, or commentator to circulate such fake news stories?
- Serhiy Leshchenko, a member of the Ukrainian parliament, via text messages, threatened to expose illicit financial ties between you and Ukrainian figures.84 Why would he think you would be vulnerable to blackmail?
- A series of text messages from your daughter Andrea were leaked, including one from March 2015, where she said you had “no moral or legal compass.” Another said, “That money we have is blood money,” and that you were directly involved in a political strategy that led to death in Ukraine.85 Why would your daughter have these impressions?
- You and Deripaska had a falling out over a $19 million investment in a Ukrainian television company called Black Sea Fiber Optic Cable System, and you have been accused of fraud in an ongoing court case.86 Where does this case currently stand?
- The U.S. Department of the Treasury has that “all-cash luxury purchases of residential property by a legal entity are highly vulnerable to abuse for money laundering.”87 You have been involved in buying four properties between 2006 and 2013 using all cash. Is that correct?
A Russian-born investment banker and attorney, and Trump campaign surrogate, Boris Epshteyn was, until recently, an official in the White House press office. According to reports, he abruptly and mysteriously left his post, possibly for a position elsewhere in the administration.88 Epshteyn, who heavily promoted Trump during the presidential campaign and described himself as a senior adviser, has denied that Russia seized Crimea.89
- You were born in Moscow and subsequently emigrated to the United States, is that correct?
- Is it true that when you were an investment banker and attorney you moderated an October 2013 conference in New York titled “Invest in Moscow” with a panel largely made up of government officials from Moscow?
- Is it true that the panel discussion was also financed in part by the Russians?
- According to your financial industry disclosure forms, you have conducted business in Eastern Europe through Strategy International LLC.90 Could you please detail the locations and types of business activities conducted through Strategy International in Eastern Europe?
- Please detail any other business dealing, contacts, investments, or financing in the former Soviet Union and front companies from that region in which you have been involved.
- Is it true that in a 2013 video interview you suggested that Russia effectively controls the leaks of former Central Intelligence Agency, or CIA, employee and U.S. government contractor Edward Snowden?
- As someone who knows investments and Russia very well, would you say that it is fair to observe that high-level business dealings in Russia almost automatically imply contacts and ties with senior government officials as well?
- Isn’t it also true that those oligarchs who have not been in favor with Putin have often ended up under investigation, in exile, in jail, or worse?
- You then went on to serve as an advisor and surrogate for the Trump campaign. During the campaign you suggested that any effort to link Trump to Russia was a “ridiculous narrative by the left.”91 Given the resignation of Michael Flynn, the recusal of Attorney General Sessions, and the clear finding by the intelligence community that the Russians interfered in the U.S. election to benefit Trump, do you stand by that statement?
- Do you have reason to believe that any of your conversations or communications with Russian officials, Russian nationals, or their intermediaries have been caught on intelligence intercepts?
- Have you seen any evidence of favorable treatment of Trump or Kushner business interests by Russian or other officials of any other government hoping to curry favor with the administration?
- You left the administration after a very short time and under very murky circumstances. Could you clear up the reasons for your departure?
- Have you been contacted by the FBI or any other national security agency regarding the Russia investigation?
- Have you ever spoken or communicated with Christopher Steele, the former British intelligence official who prepared the dossier on Trump?
Felix Sater is a Russian immigrant and convicted criminal who previously worked on business deals for Trump, including a failed venture in Moscow.92 He was implicated in a huge stock manipulation scheme involving Mafia figures and Russian criminals.93
- You are an immigrant from the Soviet Union and still maintain many relationships in Russia, is that correct?
- You have also been an important part of the development company Bayrock Group which is located just two floor below the Trump offices in Trump Tower in New York. You have worked on several licensed Trump projects, including the large Trump SoHo project in in New York. You worked on proposals to build a Trump Tower in Moscow, a decade ago and then again in 2015. You also met with Ivanka Trump and Donald Trump Jr. in Moscow in 2006 at Donald Trump’s request, and you used to carry a business card identifying yourself as a senior adviser to The Trump Organization while you prospected deals. You and Donald Trump Jr. have had extensive email discussions about Florida real estate. You attended the launch of Trump SoHo with Donald Trump, Ivanka Trump, and Donald Trump Jr. You brought a Ft. Lauderdale real estate project directly to Donald Trump. You and Donald Trump, along with your former associate Tevfik Arif, have been photographed laughing and smiling and sharing a stage at events.94 Is that all broadly correct?
- Yet, in regards to knowing you, Mr. Trump has said, under oath, “If he were sitting in the room right now, I really wouldn’t know what he looked like.”95 Given the depth of your business and personal dealings, that seems quite hard to believe, doesn’t it?
- You are also a convicted felon, having assaulted a man with a broken margarita glass in a bar in Manhattan, where the victim of this assault required 110 stitches.96 Correct?
- After serving jail time, you then became implicated in an extensive stock fraud, racketeering, and international money laundering scheme, along with your associates Gennady Klotsman and Salvatore Lauria. You and Klotsman were traveling back and forth to Russia at the time these crimes were uncovered. You plead guilty to securities fraud for a scheme that defrauded some $40 million, much of it from elderly investors, including Holocaust survivors.97 Is this also correct?
- You then turned state’s witness, and according to the indictments four different Italian Mafia crime families were involved in this security fraud. You and your father, Mikhail Sater, provided key evidence against your mob accomplices. Your father was also indicted in 2000 in a case that involved Butch Montevecchi, who also figured in your case, for an extortion racket in the Russian enclave of Brighton Beach in Brooklyn.98Again, are the broad parameters of this accurate?
- Over the next decade, you worked as an informant for the FBI.99 Can you characterize the nature of your assistance to the FBI and other national security agencies?
- Have you engaged in any activity, here or abroad, which would normally be deemed unlawful or illicit since you became a cooperating witness with federal law enforcement and intelligence agencies?
- By the early 2000s, you emerged as a managing director of the real estate development firm, Bayrock Group, founded by the Kazakhstan-born Tevfik Arif. You became an important partner for The Trump Organization on a series of projects. Trump has said that he was not aware that you had been caught up in a massive securities fraud case and turned FBI informant.100 Did you ever discuss your securities fraud issues or cooperation with the FBI with Donald Trump, his attorney, or any of his other close associates or family members?
- In 2007, you were sued by the manager of a Trump project in Phoenix after you allegedly threatened to get a cousin to electrocute the manager’s testicles, dismember him, and leave him “dead in the trunk of his car.”101 You settled that case out of court. Did you or the company make direct payments to the property manager as part of that settlement?
- Is it also true that Bayrock, and your role at Bayrock, are still part of ongoing litigation by the company’s CFO that alleges “tax evasion and money-laundering were the core of Bayrock’s business model,” and that you personally had a decades-long involvement with the New York and Russian Mafia? In addition, this suit alleges that a $50 million investment in Trump SoHo and three other Bayrock projects came from an Icelandic firm, FL Group—now Stodir—preferred by wealthy Russians close to Vladimir Putin.102 In a Bayrock investor presentation, Alexander Mashkevich, a billionaire once charged in a corruption case involving fees paid by a Belgian company seeking business in Kazakhstan, was also identified as a “strategic partner.”103
- Why do you think Trump properties have been so very attractive to Russian investors?
- Doesn’t that investment history contradict the president’s own assertion that Russia doesn’t have any investment in him?
- Do you know of any Trump Organization debt held by nationals or entities in the former Soviet Union or its cutouts?
- You know Russia quite well. Do you believe that Vladimir Putin preferred Donald Trump in the presidential election?
- Do you believe that Russia took actions to interfere in the U.S. election?
- Have you ever had any conversations with Donald Trump, members of his family, business, campaign or other associates about Russia and the U.S. election?
- Have you ever had any discussions with Russians, Russian officials, or their representatives about the election, propaganda efforts, or hacking?
- Have you ever had any discussions with Russians, Russian officials, or their representatives about subjects that would be seen as advancing Donald Trump or his associates’ business interests?
- Do you believe any of your conversations or communications have been caught up in intercepts of Russian intelligence officials or their associates?
- Given that this is a topic that you know well, are you aware of any activity that would be reasonably called money laundering by Russian nationals through Trump casinos or Trump properties?
- You, along with President Trump’s personal attorney Michael Cohen, and Ukrainian lawmaker Andrii Artemenko were involved in bringing a Ukraine “peace plan” to the White House.104 Can you categorically confirm that no money changed hands in Ukraine or elsewhere for the efforts to bring this so-called peace plan to the White House? Did you, Cohen, or Artemenko receive any form of contribution, compensation, or favor for back-channeling this so called peace plan to the White House?
Jeff Sessions is the former senator from Alabama and chairman of the Trump campaign’s national security committee. Now the U.S. attorney general, Sessions was forced to recuse himself from any inquiries into Russia’s meddling in the 2016 election after lying during his confirmation hearing about having met multiple times with the Russian Ambassador Sergey Kislyak during the campaign.105
- In your confirmation hearings, you took the rather unusual step of refusing to recuse yourself from U.S. Department of Justice inquiries into Russia’s ties to Trump and other administration officials and Russian interference in the election.106 Is that correct?
- You traditionally have been quite hawkish on Russia during your long Senate career, identifying them as an existential threat to the United States and democracy. Yet, just two weeks after being given a senior national security role on the campaign, you said, “I think an argument can be made there is no reason for the U.S. and Russia to be at this loggerheads.”107 That is quite a shift, are those indeed your words? How did your world view change so suddenly?
- During your confirmation hearings you told Sen. Al Franken (D-MN), “I did not have communications with the Russians.” You also said in writing that you had not been in contact with anyone in the Russian government about the election.108 Is that correct?
- Yet, it subsequently emerged that you had met with the Russian ambassador multiple times, including a September 2016 meeting in your Senate office and at the Republican National Convention. One of your Senate staffers also indicated you had a phone conversation with the ambassador, but later retracted that claim.109 Please detail all of your conversations, interactions, or communications with any Russian nationals or their representatives since January 1, 2016.
- What did you discuss during your meeting with the ambassador in your Senate office? Did the topic of sanctions come up?
- Who were the staffers who attended the meeting with the Russian ambassador in your office?
- Did they take notes during this discussion?
- Have they been asked to preserve and produce these notes? Are you willing to provide these notes to investigators and the public?
- You have stated under oath that there were no discussions of the election with the ambassador. Is the public really supposed to believe that, in the middle of a presidential campaign in which you were a senior figure, the topic of the presidential election did not even come up with a Russian ambassador whose primary job is to report back to Moscow on political developments inside the United States?
- Are you aware that the Russian ambassador is widely viewed as a Russian intelligence operative who recruits and runs espionage agents in this country?110
- During your time either on the campaign or in your role as attorney general, are you aware of any communications between Trump or his associates with Russian nationals, Russian intelligence agents, or their cutouts?
- Have you encountered any evidence that any foreign government has sought to seek favor with the president, his family, or any of their business holdings by giving these entities preferable treatment?
- You ultimately announced that you would recuse yourself from “any existing or future investigations of any matters related in any way to the campaigns for President of the United States.”111 Will you also commit to recusing yourself from any investigations of financial wrongdoings or criminal associations that may emerge from the investigations of Russian interference in the election?
- Were you ever included in, or aware of, discussions within the campaign about Carter Page’s summer 2016 trip to Moscow during the campaign?
- How was Carter Page vetted as a foreign policy adviser? Who recommended him for this role?
Implicated in the Watergate scandal, Roger Stone is a political operative and longtime friend of Trump who served as an informal adviser to the Trump campaign. Stone, who was also a former business partner of Paul Manafort’s, appeared to have advanced knowledge of the WikiLeaks release during the campaign and claimed to have communicated with WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange. Both the FBI and the U.S. Senate are currently investigating Stone for possible collusion with Russia during the 2016 election.112
- In interviews and your own writings, you have bragged about frequently being involved in “dirty tricks” for campaigns.113 Is that correct?
- Did you engage in any of these dirty tricks, or offer ideas for such dirty tricks to the Trump campaign?
- You have acknowledged that you exchanged repeated messages with Guccifer 2.0, an individual that the U.S. intelligence community has widely identified as a Russian behind some of the most serious hacking in the presidential election.114 Do you routinely cheer the illegal actions of foreign intelligence agencies trying to disrupt our democratic process?
- You have said that you have provided provide full copies to the media of these exchanges, is that actually the case?
- Did it not strike you as unusual that a foreign hacker wrote to you, “please tell me if i can help u anyhow. it would be a great pleasure to me.”115 Do you really think that having a Russian intelligence operative declare that he wants to assist the campaign of Donald Trump in any way he can is “innocuous?”
- Given the gravity of the repeated crimes and espionage carried out by Guccifer 2.0, did you report these contacts to law enforcement or intelligence officials at the time they occurred?
- You have also publicly stated that you have a back-channel to Wikileaks, although you have had conflicting statements as to whether this was a direct or indirect line of communication. You also clearly had advance warning that Hillary Clinton’s campaign chairman John Podesta’s hacked emails were about to be released by Wikileaks in the fall of 2016.116 Who is your back-channel to Wikileaks?
- In August 2016 you said, “I actually have communicated with Assange,” and said that you believed “the next tranche of his documents pertain to the Clinton Foundation.”117 Did you communicate directly with Assange?
- Do your multiple conflicting statements, where you have by turns admitted these contacts, denied these contacts, and then tried to downplay them, call your veracity into question?
- Do you believe Wikileaks to be collaborating with Russian intelligence services?
- Do you believe that Russian intelligence services tried to influence the election?
- Have you been interviewed by the FBI as part of their Russia probe?
- Do you believe, or have direct evidence, that U.S. intelligence agencies have collected evidence or intercepts indicating that you were wittingly or unwittingly in touch with Russian intelligence operatives during the campaign?
- Did you play a role in Paul Manafort getting his very senior role with the Trump campaign? If so, please describe that role?
- Do you have reasons to believe that your financial transactions, those of your former lobbyist partner Paul Manafort, or Carter Page are under scrutiny by the FBI as part of this investigation?
- During the election you worked with Lee Stranahan of Breitbart News on an article insisting that Russia had nothing to do with the hacks of Democratic targets. Stranahan is now formally on the payroll of the Russian propaganda outlet Sputnik.118 Why is it that so many of the people most adamantly denying Trump-Russia links—such as Michael Flynn and Lee Stranahan—end up actually being on the Russian payroll?
The sheer volume of questions that need to be answered satisfactorily by the principles in this seemingly ever-spreading scandal speaks to how much work remains for investigators. Just as striking as the unresolved questions in the Trump-Russia scandal, however, is the tendency by President Trump and his associates to attempt to cover up the facts in this case. President Trump, Paul Manafort, Attorney General Sessions, Senior Advisor Jared Kushner, Carter Page, Roger Stone, and others all initially adamantly claimed that there were no contacts between the campaign and the Russians. Yet, drip by drip, evidence of these ties that run suspiciously deep have emerged. Meeting after meeting, conversation after conversation, transcript after transcript, a pattern of incredibly broad and deep ties between shady Russian figures and the Trump camp have emerged.
All of which leads perhaps to a single overriding question: Why would someone running for president of the United States have his associates engage in an extensive series of conversations with Russian intelligence officials and well-connected oligarchs? The answer to that query does not bode well for the future of the Trump presidency.
John Norris is the Executive Director of the Sustainable Security and Peacebuilding Initiative at American Progress.