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Allegra Kirkland

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

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President Donald Trump is using funds donated to his re-election campaign and the Republican National Committee to pay the team of outside lawyers representing him in the various probes into Russia’s interference in the 2016 election, Reuters reported Tuesday.

One of two sources familiar with the matter told Reuters that the first payments had already been made and would be disclosed in public filings. The RNC is expected to make its August spending public on Wednesday, while Trump’s reelection campaign, which launched the day he took office, makes its next disclosure on Oct. 15.

CNN reported that the RNC in August shelled out some $230,000 for Trump’s Russia-related legal fees, paying $100,000 to lead outside attorney John Dowd and $131,250 to conservative constitutional lawyer Jay Sekulow.

Election law experts told Reuters that Trump is the first president to use private campaign funds to cover the costs of a criminal investigation. The Federal Election Commission does permit use of private donations for legal expenses, but past presidential campaigns have spent them on routine matters like compliance requirements.

An unnamed RNC official told CNN that the money for Trump’s private attorneys came through the RNC’s legal defense fund, rather than its political coffers.

Dowd was a bit more tart when Reuters asked about how Trump was covering his legal bills, saying only: “That’s none of your damn business.”

The third attorney assisting with the probe is special White House counsel Ty Cobb, a salaried staffer.

Campaigns may pay legal fees for individuals other than the particular candidate or elected official, Reuters noted. One example was the campaign’s June payment of $50,000 to the law firm of Alan Futerfas, the attorney representing Donald Trump, Jr. That same filing showed that Trump has spent over $4.5 million of campaign funds on legal costs from January through June.

A number of other White House staffers, including Trump’s son-in-law, Jared Kushner, Vice President Mike Pence, White House counsel Don McGahn, and Communications Director Hope Hicks, have retained legal representation in response to the investigation.

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Two bombshell reports that dropped Monday dispelled any lingering doubts about former Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort’s serious legal exposure. First CNN reported that the FBI was monitoring Manafort’s communications prior to and after the election, and, within the hour, the New York Times reported that federal prosecutors warned him that they planned to indict him.

Legal experts told TPM that these reports also have significant implications for Trump campaign and administration officials, including President Donald Trump himself, as any communications between Manafort and the President, or Manafort and other campaign aides, about sensitive matters would have been recorded and stored while the order was in effect.

“You can always use that information,” Robert Deitz, former senior councillor to the director of the CIA and general counsel at the National Security Administration, told TPM. “Manafort could easily have been picked up in any of these communications citing the President for something: ‘The President told me X or I told the President Y.’ That doesn’t make it admissible evidence per se, but that’s the kind of thing that I think would scare the hell out of a principal in the investigation.”

Deitz noted that all communications obtained under an order from the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) court—like the one that CNN reported was in operation for Manafort through the start of the Trump administration—are maintained in what the intelligence community refers to as “the primordial soup.”

“Stuff you either didn’t get around to reviewing, or stuff you kind of took a first cut at and didn’t think was significant, you don’t erase it,” he said.

Manafort spokesman Jason Maloni adamantly denied that there was anything untoward in the former campaign chairman’s private communications, and noted that it was a felony to reveal the existence of a FISA order.

“If true, it is a felony to reveal the existence of a FISA warrant, regardless of the fact that no charges ever emerged,” Maloni said in a statement late Tuesday. “The U.S Department of Justice’s Inspector General should immediately conduct an investigation into these leaks and to examine the motivations behind a previous Administration’s effort to surveil a political opponent. Mr. Manafort requests that the Department of Justice release any intercepts involving him and any non-Americans so interested parties can come to the same conclusion as the DOJ – there is nothing there.”

To obtain an order from the FISA court, the government must establish probable cause that an individual is the “agent of a foreign power,” and federal agents are then required to minimize any communications that don’t pertain to the basis for that order.

The CNN report also explicitly referred to “communications that sparked concerns among investigators that Manafort had encouraged the Russians to help with the campaign”—intelligence that would directly pertain to special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation into Russia’s interference in the 2016 election and whether Trump associates collaborated in those efforts, which originated with the FBI.

Though Manafort left the campaign in August 2016, he continued to be in touch with Trump and his team through early 2017. The content of those conversations would be of overwhelming interest to Mueller’s team, former federal prosecutors told TPM, particularly if investigators are trying to convince Manafort to cough up whatever dirt he may possess on other Trump associates.

“The $64,000 question is whether there is anything to this,” said Michael Zeldin, who served as special counsel to Mueller when he was the assistant attorney general in the DOJ’s Criminal Division. “That is, did Manafort willfully provide intelligence information to a foreign power? And, if so, who else has knowledge of or participated in the activity?”

“If he did,” Zeldin continued, “the question for prosecutors is whether Manafort has a story to tell that will lead them to offer a plea bargain type of arrangement in exchange for his complete and truthful testimony.”

Both Zeldin and Nick Akerman, a former prosecutor on the Watergate investigation, pointed to reports of the strong evidence Mueller is building against Manafort to bolster theories that prosecutors are trying to flip him. Though the Times report on Mueller’s team’s warning to Manafort doesn’t indicate the alleged crimes for which he could be indicted, the former campaign chair is reportedly under investigation for failing to register as a foreign agent, tax evasion and colluding with a foreign power against the interests of the U.S.

“The bottom line is that the people who really should be worried now are the President, Donald Trump, Jr., [Trump son-in-law and White House adviser Jared] Kushner,” Akerman said. “People who were at that June 9 meeting, and people that Manafort could finger because ultimately what I think they’re trying to do is come at him with all the firepower they have and get him to turn and testify.”

Manafort was present at that June 9 meeting in Trump Tower, where Trump Jr. was told he would receive damaging information about Hillary Clinton as part of a Kremlin-directed effort to help his father’s campaign.

Trump, Kushner, Manafort and Trump Jr. have all previously denied working with Russia to influence the election.

According to CNN, a previous FISA order against Manafort tied to his consulting work for a pro-Russia Ukrainian political order began in 2014 and expired sometime before he was promoted to campaign chairman in May 2016. CNN’s report noted that the order that covered Manafort’s communications through “early this year” was not in effect at the time of the Trump Tower meeting, suggesting it wasn’t issued until after early June 2016.

Zeldin, Mueller’s former special counsel, said that FISA orders generally require renewal every 90-120 days, and CNN’s story implied that Manafort’s order is no longer operative.

Legal experts said that cutoff could have several interpretations: It could suggest either that Mueller’s team already had obtained all the information they needed, or that, after lawyers for Manafort and the Trump administration cut off contact between the two parties, the wiretap was no longer a valuable avenue.

“If he stops talking to people, then there’s nothing to intercept,” Zeldin said.

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In a whopping 400-plus page complaint filed Thursday, onetime Trump campaign adviser Carter Page sued several news organizations for publishing what he deemed were “highly-damaging, life-threatening articles” about his contacts with Russian officials.

Page’s defamation suit, filed in federal court in Manhattan, identifies a Sept. 23, 2016 Yahoo article as the wellspring for a flood of stories calling into question his past work in Moscow and his contacts with Kremlin-linked Russian businessmen. Page, who is representing himself, is seeking $75,000 in damages.

The article, written by Yahoo’s chief investigative correspondent Michael Isikoff, reported that U.S. officials were investigating whether Page met with Russian officials, including Igor Sechin, a former deputy prime minister, and Igor Diveykin, the Kremlin’s deputy chief for internal policy, during the campaign to discuss lifting U.S. sanctions against Russia. The alleged meeting occurred during a June 2016 trip to Moscow that Page took while serving as a foreign policy adviser to the Trump campaign; Page denies that he he met with those officials.

Page’s suit describes the story’s publication, which prompted his departure from the Trump campaign, as one of “the most dangerous, reckless, irresponsible and historically-instrumental moments in modern-day sensational crime story journalism.” It also targets HuffPost and Radio Free Europe for publishing subsequent articles that cited Isikoff’s reporting.

Oath Inc., the parent company of Yahoo and HuffPost which is named as a defendant in the suit, did not immediately respond to TPM’s request for comment.

Page’s complaint, in which he refers to himself as “Dr. Page,” chronicles the Yahoo article’s dissemination in exhaustive, theatrical detail. It’s sprinkled throughout with tweets, photos of himself and even online reader comments. The oil and gas consultant, who runs his own small firm from a Manhattan co-working space, charged that the Yahoo article’s allegations led to “the destruction” of his reputation and “led to many associated threats to his life.”

He quoted one such threat he said he received via voicemail at length. “If it was up to me, after we fucking tried you for treason, we’d take you out in the street and beat the fucking piss out of you with baseball bats, you cock sucking mother fucker,” part of it read.

Though Page adamantly denies collaborating on Russia’s campaign to influence the 2016 election, the FBI was sufficiently concerned by his foreign contacts to obtain a Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court warrant to monitor his communications last year. Page also has confirmed that he sat through over ten hours of interviews with FBI agents this spring.

Despite this wealth of what he insists in the complaint is unwanted public attention, Page has spoken frequently with the press. He agreed to a 30-minute interview with TPM this summer in a Starbucks in Penn Station, and also claimed to be shopping around a book deal on his experience navigating the Russia investigation.

Asked Friday for comment on the suit and why he chose to represent himself, Page sent TPM a lengthy statement quoting George Washington and citing the Constitution. He said he has “done a tremendous amount of legal work” during his career, including as legal officer on his Navy ship and as general counsel for his energy consulting firm.

“Although I may have been dissed amidst the dystopia seen last year,” Page said in an email, “I have full faith that the true administration of justice will indeed be restored in due course.”

Read the first part of his 400-plus page complaint below:

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After a months-long court battle to obtain the visitor logs from President Donald Trump’s Mar-a-Lago resort in Florida, and an additional week-long delay, the Justice Department on Friday released the names of just 22 visitors to the estate.

“The government does not believe that they need to release any further Mar-a-Lago visitor records,” Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington (CREW) Executive Director Noah Bookbinder said in a statement. “We vehemently disagree. The government seriously misrepresented their intentions to both us and the court.”

CREW teamed up with the National Security Archive and the Knight First Amendment Institute in April to sue the Department of Homeland Security for Mar-a-Lago’s complete visitor logs from Jan. 20, the date of Trump’s inauguration, to March 8. Instead, DOJ turned over just 22 names of visitors from the weekend the President hosted Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe and his entourage at the sprawling Palm beach estate.

Those on the list include Japan’s deputy foreign minister and other top aides, butlers, and drivers from Abe’s delegation.

Bookbinder said that this list amounted to “spitting in the eye of transparency,” promising that the trio of watchdog groups “will be fighting this in court.”

CREW also released a letter from the DOJ, dated Tuesday, that explained the other records are not subject to the Freedom of Information Act request submitted by the watchdogs.

“The remaining records that the Secret Service has processed in response to the Mar-a-Lago request contain, reflect, or otherwise relate to the President’s schedules,” Acting Assistant Attorney General Chad Readler and Acting U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of New York wrote. “The government believes that Presidential schedule information is not subject to FOIA.”

Trump was traveling to Mar-a-Lago frequently during the period included in the watchdog groups’ complaints, and came under fire for conducting government business in view of paying members of his Florida club.

During Abe’s visit, for example, club members shared images on social media of Trump and the Prime Minister strategizing their response to a ballistic missile release by North Korea at a dinner table.

The White House also dismissed ethics concerns about the cost of bringing a visiting dignitary to the President’s private resort, telling the press that Trump was “personally paying for the Mar-a-Lago portions of the trip” as a “gift.”

The trio of watchdog groups is also suing to obtain visitor logs from the White House and Trump Tower, the President’s Manhattan home.

Read the DOJ letter and list of 22 visitors’ names below:

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In a lawsuit and a spate of recent profiles, the Georgia State University student managing white nationalist Richard Spencer’s college campus tour has been characterized as a fresh-faced free speech advocate who wants to see visiting speakers of all persuasions treated equally. Cameron Padgett most recently made headlines for teaming up with self-proclaimed “alt-right lawyer” Kyle Bristow to sue Michigan State University for refusing to allow Spencer to come give a talk on the East Lansing campus.

In TPM’s initial conversations with the Georgia native, who first gained national attention for his successful April lawsuit that compelled Auburn University to allow Spencer to speak there, he described himself simply as a libertarian “senior in college.” His relative youth was also emphasized in a press release Bristow sent about the Michigan State case on Sept. 3 and in the complaint, which described Padgett as a “law-abiding 23-year-old senior at Georgia State University” and “23-year-old senior at Georgia State University who subscribes to identitarian philosophy,” respectively.

Spencer himself told TPM it was useful to have a current college student making speaking requests to schools on his behalf.

But there is one odd inconsistency in how Padgett’s background has been publicly presented: A wealth of local news stories about his high school athletic career indicate he is 29, not 23, as has been reported in the press and as he was described in the original complaint against Michigan State.

Asked about this discrepancy, Padgett told TPM he never intended to mislead anyone about his age.

“All the news articles, I don’t know how they got my age wrong,” he said, calling the mistake “kind of weird.” “They assumed. I don’t know why they did that. They never asked me or anything; they just put that in there. I’m a graduate student at Georgia State and I’m 28.”

In a subsequent text message, Padgett said that he meant to say he was “born in ’88…not that I was 28.”

Padgett said he believed the slip with his age originated with a widely-circulated Associated Press article about the Michigan State suit that stated he was 23. He added that he’d asked Bristow to amend the complaint with the correct information.

Bristow did not immediately respond to TPM’s request for confirmation that the complaint had been amended. A motion for preliminary injunction that Bristow filed on Sept. 10 made no mention of Padgett’s age.

The same local press that placed Padgett in high school in the mid-2000s also reported on a dispute over a referee’s call at one of his brother’s basketball games; a 2009 citation for disorderly conduct provided by the Candler County, Georgia clerk alleged that Padgett refused to leave the premises and was “questioning officers and running his mouth.” Padgett told TPM that officers “falsely arrested him” and that the matter was swiftly resolved outside of court.

Taken together, these details cast a slightly different light on public reports about and descriptions of Padgett.

In a phone conversation this week, Spencer showered praise on Padgett for his work on the Auburn case, referring to him as “a very energetic young man,” a “pragmatic and optimistic young man,” and an “amazing kid.”

“First off Cameron is a student and secondly a lot of this is simply division of labor,” Spencer told TPM when asked why Padgett reaches out to schools to set up speaking gigs rather than doing it himself.

“He is not an employee; he is doing this voluntarily, but we also make it very clear to the university what is happening,” he said. “We aren’t fronting or anything. We say we are going to bring Richard Spencer from the National Policy Institute, that the National Policy Institute will ultimately pay the room rental fee and all that. But Cameron is being that point man. And I do think it’s good that he’s a student as well.”

Georgia State confirmed that Padgett is currently enrolled there. He told TPM he was in his last semester earning a graduate degree as a finance major, and that he got involved on Spencer’s behalf as a “staunch, staunch supporter of the First Amendment” who felt public schools were unfairly discriminating against Spencer for his views on race. Padgett said he received no official title or compensation from NPI, and did not plan on becoming more active in far-right politics after graduation.

Padgett said he used the $29,000 settlement he received from the Auburn case to pay Sam Dickson, his lawyer on that case who has represented members of the Ku Klux Klan in the past, and reimbursed some $3,500 to NPI for the money it spent renting and securing the campus venue for Spencer. He said the remaining money went to a “pro free speech organization,” which he declined to identify.

NPI’s recently-appointed executive director, Evan McLaren, described Padgett as a “volunteer and a friend” who has “really taken the bull by the horns” in sending room rental requests on Spencer’s behalf to schools including the University of Florida, Louisiana State University, Penn State University, University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill and Ohio State University.

“I think he basically shares Richard’s attitude that it’s an important message, at least one that’s valid enough that it should be heard on campus,” McLaren said, noting that “the public universities are obviously a target.”

Exactly what message Padgett wants promoted isn’t entirely clear. NPI, Bristow and Padgett himself say he’s merely a free speech advocate and doesn’t consider himself part of the loosely-defined mass of white nationalists, anti-Semites and misogynists who compose the alt-right.

Unprompted, Padgett told TPM he would “support someone who went up and said all white people are evil and should give money to all the minorities and give their land over.”

However, to date he has only involved himself on campus free speech cases on Spencer’s behalf. Padgett also has cited the far-right politician Pat Buchanan, who called Donald Trump “the great white hope,” as a major influence; has a Twitter feed full of tweets lamenting the plight of white people in America and criticizing the influence of Jews; and told TPM that, though he did not want a “100 percent homogenous white nation,” multiculturalism “just hasn’t worked.”

Intentions aside, First Amendment experts have told TPM that Spencer and Padgett have good odds of succeeding in court. Free speech protections are very strong in public spaces like state school campuses, and court precedent, like at Auburn, has mostly fallen on their side.

Both men said that they’re hoping the Michigan State case will bolster that precedent, prompting other universities to simply give up on blocking Spencer’s appearances.

“We want to get a model that works,” Spencer said.

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LATE UPDATE Sept. 14, 2017, 5:26 p.m.: OGE press liaison Elizabeth Horton told TPM in a phone call late Thursday afternoon that the “OGE policy on anonymous contributions has not changed.” “OGE is continuing to recommend that funds include language prohibiting anonymous contributions,” Horton said.

Original story below:

In a notable reversal, the Office of Government Ethics has altered its internal guidance to allow anonymous donations to legal defense funds set up on behalf of White House staffers, Politico reported Wednesday.

Former officials in the nonpartisan office told Politico that these faceless donors could try to curry favor with the Trump administration by footing the mounting legal fees for White House officials caught up in the sprawling federal investigation into Russia’s election interference.

“You can picture a whole army of people with business before the government willing to step in here and make [the debt] go away,” Marilyn Glynn, a veteran of the office who served as acting OGE director during George W. Bush’s administration, told Politico.

An OGE guidance document from 1993 allows for the solicitation of anonymous donations from lobbyists and other groups for legal defense funds. But in practice, OGE officials have strongly discouraged that approach, cautioning from the Clinton administration onwards that such a practice poses grave ethical concerns, according to Politico.

The White House told Politico that it wasn’t helping establish any legal defense funds or pushing for any change in the enforcement of the anonymous donor policy.

TPM has reached out to OGE for comment.

As special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation presses on, the list of Trump associates paying for top-flight white collar lawyers has expanded. Longtime Trump ally Roger Stone has started his own legal defense fund and multiple reports have been published about former national security adviser Michael Flynn’s intention of doing the same. Former Trump campaign adviser Michael Caputo has said his legal costs drained his childrens’ college funds.

As for current White House staffers, White House communications director Hope Hicks, Trump’s son-in-law and adviser Jared Kushner, White House counsel Don McGahn, and Vice President Mike Pence have all retained counsel to navigate the Russia probe.

This story has been updated.

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Michael G. Flynn, the son of President Donald Trump’s fired national security adviser, took to his favorite medium late Wednesday to dismiss NBC News’ report that he is a “subject” of the federal investigation into Russia’s 2016 election interference.

“#FakeNews Media: ‘We’re done covering those ‘pesky hurricanes’ right????…Back to Russia!’” Flynn’s son wrote in a tweet, referring to the back-to-back Hurricanes that have brought devastation to Texas, Florida and the Caribbean in recent weeks. “#Nothingburger.”

The tweet included a link to a writeup of NBC’s story in The Hill.

It comes hours after NBC first identified the younger Flynn as a target of the federal probe and reported that his work for his father’s consulting firm, Flynn Intel Group, was one focus of special counsel Robert Mueller.

Barry Coburn told NBC that he is serving as the younger Flynn’s legal counsel and declined comment.

Flynn’s son has consistently brushed aside reports about congressional and federal investigations into both Russia’s 2016 dealings and his father as “fake news.”

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Until Wednesday, the son of President Donald Trump’s ousted national security adviser was probably best known for getting canned from the White House transition team for promoting the bogus “Pizzagate” conspiracy theory.

But the son of retired Army Lt. Gen. Michael T. Flynn burst back into the spotlight with NBC News’ report that he is a “subject” of the federal investigation into Russia’s interference in the 2016 election. That report casts a new light on the years Flynn’s son, Michael G. Flynn, spent working alongside his father, serving as chief of staff for his consulting firm and as his right-hand man during Trump’s campaign and transition.

In this dual role, Flynn’s son was both a cheerleader for the campaign and closely involved in his father’s sensitive foreign business dealings, accompanying him on a 2015 trip to Russia and assisting with a Turkish lobbying deal that initially brought his father under federal scrutiny. Unraveling the exact details of this father-son working relationship could be critical to special counsel Robert Mueller’s probe.

One area of interest for Mueller, according to NBC, is the younger Flynn’s work for Flynn Intel Group, the Virginia-based intelligence consulting firm that his father founded in 2014. Earlier this year, the firm retroactively registered as a foreign agent after carrying out a $530,000 lobbying contract in the thick of the 2016 campaign for a businessman with close ties to the Turkish government. Flynn’s son was paid $12,000 over a three-month period for “administrative support” for his work on the Turkey project, according to the firm’s March 2017 filing under the Foreign Agents Registration Act (FARA).

Flynn’s son also accompanied him on a December 2015 trip to Moscow to attend a gala hosted by Kremlin-funded news outlet RT, where his father was seated at the same table as Russian President Vladimir Putin. The elder Flynn was paid $34,000 to speak at the event, and RT also paid for both of the Flynns’ airfare and three-night stay at a luxury hotel, according to NBC.

Flynn only disclosed that payment, as well as thousands of dollars in speaking fees he received from two other Russian companies, after he was ousted from the White House for lying about his contacts with Russian officials during the campaign. RT announced this week that its U.S. arm was told to register under FARA for pushing Russian government propaganda.

Just months after the Moscow trip, Flynn formally joined the Trump campaign as a top adviser and surrogate, and he brought his son along for the ride. Flynn’s son sometimes traveled on the trail and heavily promoted Trump on his social media accounts, alongside links to dubiously sourced far-right sites pushing conspiracy theories about Hillary Clinton. He also advocated a softer line towards the Kremlin, tweeting in March 2016 that “we have no choice when it comes to working with Russia” and that failure to do so would force the U.S. to “go to war.”

When Flynn was floated as a possible vice presidential pick in May 2016, it was his son who fielded press requests, telling CNN his father planned to “let the process play itself out.”

Both Flynns also figured prominently in a GOP activist’s alleged scheme to obtain emails he believed Russian operatives had hacked from Hillary Clinton’s private server. In recruiting emails to computer security experts later provided to the Wall Street Journal, veteran GOP opposition researcher Peter W. Smith claimed that Michael T. Flynn, his son, and Flynn Intel Group were assisting with his effort.

At least one of the cybersecurity experts contacted by Smith said that he seemed to have a close relationship with the Flynns and intimate knowledge of the Trump campaign’s inner workings.

“Although it wasn’t initially clear to me how independent Smith’s operation was from Flynn or the Trump campaign, it was immediately apparent that Smith was both well connected within the top echelons of the campaign and he seemed to know both Lt. Gen. Flynn and his son well,” Matt Tait wrote in a LawFare blog post recounting his interactions with the 81-year-old Smith, who committed suicide shortly after the Journal’s story was published.

Flynn’s son declined the Journal’s request for comment on the scheme.

Clinton’s emails were a fixation for the younger Flynn, and he tweeted about them frequently in the run-up to the 2016 election. It was that overactive online presence that ultimately brought his relationship with the Trump team to an end.

Though Flynn’s son stopped by Trump Tower with his father after the Nov. 8 election and had an official transition email address, Vice President-elect Mike Pence tried to argue that he had no official role after his incendiary tweets became a focus of media attention. They included links to stories alleging that Clinton aide Huma Abedin was connected to the Muslim Brotherhood and that Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL) was a closeted homosexual who used cocaine.

The younger Flynn’s promotion of “Pizzagate,” a bizarre conspiracy theory that posited that Clinton aides were running a child sex trafficking ring from a Washington, D.C. pizza place, prompted the transition team to formally sever ties in early December.

At the time, a source told the New York Times that the “Pizzagate” tweets cost Flynn’s son a White House job. The source said that he planned to join his father’s National Security Council and had even started the process of obtaining a security clearance.

The subsequent federal investigation into his father and, reportedly, himself, has not inspired the younger Flynn to abandon his social media activities. In the past 24 hours alone, Flynn’s son has fired off a volley of tweets about politicians engaging in pedophilia and, of course, Clinton.

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The son of ousted national security adviser Michael Flynn is a “subject” of the federal investigation into Russia’s interference in the 2016 election, NBC News reported Wednesday.

Three current and former government officials told NBC that Michael G. Flynn was being investigated in part for his work on behalf of his father’s lobbying firm, Flynn Intel Group. Special counsel Robert Mueller is investigating the handsomely paid lobbying contract the firm carried out on behalf of a businessman close to Turkey’s government. The work was done while the elder Flynn was serving as a top adviser to Donald Trump’s campaign and transition to the White House.

Flynn Jr.’s legal counsel, Barry Coburn, told NBC he could not comment on the matter.

Other individuals identified as “subjects” of Mueller’s investigation include Flynn himself and former Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort. Former campaign adviser Carter Page, Trump’s son-in-law and White House adviser Jared Kushner, and the President’s son, Donald Trump Jr., are also under scrutiny for their contacts with Russians during the 2016 race.

Flynn Jr. was removed from the Trump transition team in December after promoting conspiracy theories on his social media accounts— including a bizarre and baseless narrative about top Democrats running a child sex trafficking ring from a popular Washington, D.C. pizza shop, known as “Pizzagate.”

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While serving in the White House, former national security adviser Michael Flynn pushed a private-sector scheme to build dozens of nuclear reactors throughout the Middle East, the Wall Street Journal reported Wednesday.

Former National Security Council staffers and others familiar with the effort told the Journal that Flynn spoke about the project in meetings and directed his staff to meet with the former U.S. military officers involved with it. Flynn’s own work on the project as a private citizen dates back to at least mid-2015.

Former NSC staffers told the newspaper that Flynn’s contacts with his former business associates happened “outside normal channels,” with one former council member calling his actions “highly abnormal” and “not the way things were supposed to go.”

A lawyer for Flynn and a White House spokeswoman declined the Journal’s requests for comment.

These remarkable details add a new dimension to Tuesday reports about Flynn’s involvement with the project. Two top House Democrats said they informed special counsel Robert Mueller they have evidence that Flynn broke the law by failing to include on his security clearance application a summer 2015 trip to the Middle East, where he tried to broker the ambitious energy deal. Politico reported that Flynn received at least $25,000 for his work on the project, and that he actively promoted it to members of the transition team after Trump won the election.
But news that he continued to work on the deal after joining the White House make the possible legal implications for Flynn far more severe.

Former and current officials told the Journal that he continued to advocate for the power plan after receiving warnings from NSC ethics advisers, and one official confirmed to the newspaper that a meeting between the former military officers and NSC staff occurred.

Rep. Elijah Cummings (D-MD) and Rep. Eliot Engel (D-NY) on Wednesday released correspondence with executives at the companies that Flynn worked with, X-Co Dynamics/Iron Bridge and ACU Strategic Partners. Those companies confirmed his June 2015 trip to the Middle East to promote the project—a visit that Cummings and Engel say Flynn never disclosed on a January 2016 application to renew his security clearance.

“Since these violations carry criminal penalties of up to five years in prison, we are providing your responses to Special Counsel Robert Mueller,” the Democratic lawmakers told Flynn’s former business colleagues in a letter.

 

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