Early Friday, sandwiched in between tweets on hurricane relief visits, his near-weekly “Crooked Hillary” message, and a political endorsement to Alabama, Trump tweeted that the Russia scandal was a hoax. It’s the first time he’s spoken publicly about it since Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg announced he was turning over ads related to Russian troll farms to the United States Department of Justice. In the same week, news broke from the New York Times that Trump’s former campaign manager Paul Manafort might be facing indictment on matters reportedly related to the Russian scandal that Trump calls a hoax.
It’s not the first time Trump has tweeted the Russian story is a hoax. There are over 50 tweets from Trump related to Russia stemming back years. The hoax tweets on that topic started after he took the oath to defend the Constitution, and America, from enemies foreign and domestic.
Trump has also tweeted that global warming is a hoax, and he has been tweeting that for years. Yet, the Carbon Brief Organization reports that there has been a 20-fold increase in climate change legislation in many countries around the world since 1997.
But Trump is talking about Russia today in response to Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg’s Thursday announcement that he is releasing ads to the United States government that he feels have “ties to the Russian government,” reports ABC News. The ads were run on Facebook during the election and were forensically linked to a St. Petersburg company that is directly connected to the Russian government.
ABC News reports that the ads were run by what is called a “troll farm,” wherein groups of fake Facebook accounts band together for a common purpose or mission. In this case, the troll farms purchased over $100,000 in political ads during the 2016 campaign.
It is alleged that those ads spun by the troll farms played a significant role in election interference from Russia. Or, in other words, that those ads of “fake news” influenced or interfered with an individual’s vote in the democratic process.
Chief Security Officer for Facebook Alex Stamos says the ads weren’t specifically partisan or candidate-specific, but that they were “divisive social and political messages” on the topic of gun rights, LGBTQ, and immigration. However, Trump calls the Russia scandal fake news and has for months.
The White House is not responding to requests for comment on why Trump feels the Facebook story is false or a “hoax.”
Until August of 2016, Paul Manafort was the campaign manager for the Trump campaign. Then, one day, a story came out in the New York Times that there was a handwritten accounting in a secret ledger related to the Ukraine and a mysterious sum of $12 million.
To this day, nobody is really sure what happened to that $12 million. Paul Manafort was directly connected to that story.
He resigned from the Trump campaign four days later and gave no specific reason.
Unlike Trump, Paul Manafort has been very quiet publicly about Russia, or the scandal. His most recent tweet was posted in December of 2016.
But now, Paul Manafort is in a lot of hot water. The allegations of possible indictment come from a New York Times story this week, where a “no-knock” warrant was issued on Paul Manafort in July. Early in the morning hours this past July, Manafort was woken up by a team of federal agents raiding his home after picking his lock.
Taken from the raid were “binders stuffed with documents” and computer files, and suits from his closet were photographed. The New York Times reports that special prosecutor Robert Mueller “followed the house search with a warning.” The warning: Expect an indictment courtesy of the Mueller team.
It is unclear what the federal agents were looking for or what indictments may or may not be in the pipeline for Paul Manafort, although the New York Times notes that he is being investigated for tax law violations, money-laundering, and matters related to foreign lobbying.
Even so, threatening criminal charges is not the same thing as criminal indictments actually being levied. At the same time, a “no-knock” warrant cannot lawfully occur without justifiable circumstances.
A 2002 memorandum issued by the Department of Justice details how a “no-knock” warrant can legally be used.
“Federal judges and magistrates may lawfully and constitutionally issue no knock warrants where circumstances justify a no-knock entry, and federal law enforcement officers may lawfully apply for such warrants under such circumstances.”
The “no-knock” raid on Manafort’s home then was approved by a federal judge who agreed that circumstances, or probable cause, existed. Otherwise, any such raid or search on an American citizen’s residence is a Fourth Amendment violation and, as such, unconstitutional.
In addition to the raid, Mueller has authorized subpoenas to compel witness testimony to a grand jury and has even subpoenaed a former lawyer to Paul Manafort. White House staffers and officials are also being asked to speak to Robert Mueller’s team and are reportedly being permitted to appear without subpoena power just yet. Those “voluntary” interviews are expected to begin soon.
The New York Times reports that White House legal counsel spear-heading the White House response to the Russia inquiry, Ty Cobb, is hoping to avoid the subpoena process in the White House. Instead, the White House has reportedly been working long hours to accommodate Mueller’s request for documents, which is divided into 13 categories. Those categories include the Comey firing, a statement related to Trump’s June 2016 meeting with Russian visitors, and more.
The “no-knock” raid is not the only trouble that Manafort has recently experienced. It has also been exposed that he was the subject of a FISA-approved wiretap and the subject of surveillance by the United States government. He was reportedly under surveillance before and after the 2016 election, reports AOL News.
In 2014, a warrant to tap his phones was submitted based on his pro-Kremlin work in the Ukraine. This was later discontinued, but another warrant occurred at “the beginning of this year” when communications with alleged Russian operatives was intercepted. Paul Manafort was also reportedly part of the “now famous” June 2016 meeting with Donald Trump Jr., Jared Kushner, and a Russian lawyer who was offering political mud to sling against Democratic candidate Hillary Clinton.
However, Trump wants the world to believe the Russia story is a hoax. He’s been saying that for a long time.
Trump has also in the past said that he has no deals in Russia. But he’s also tweeted that he “just got back from Russia” and referred to Russia as an interesting and amazing place. He also tweeted in 2013 that he thought the United States should be “very smart and very strategic” about Russia.
Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg does not believe the Russia scandal is a hoax and has turned over information to the congressional committees and the special prosecutor investigating the scandal. The grand juries that are working under special prosecutor’s Robert Mueller’s direction also do not believe the scandal is a hoax, and have called in high-ranking personnel to testify, including some Russians.
Rinat Akhmetshin, the Russian-born participant who was at the meeting with Donald Trump Jr. and Jared Kushner, has been called to testify before Robert Mueller’s grand jury. Jimmy Gurule, a law professor at Notre Dame, had the following to say on that.
“They seem to be pursuing this more aggressively, taking a much harder line, than you’d expect to see in a typical white-collar case. This is more consistent with how you’d go after an organized crime syndicate.”
Today, Trump is making news for tweeting that the Russia scandal is a hoax. Paul Manafort isn’t saying anything and has already made the news this week regarding a potential indictment.
The Senate Judiciary Committee also does not believe the Russia scandal is a hoax and have been investigating it for the better part of the year. Registered Republican Robert Mueller doesn’t think his investigation of Trump and Russia is based on a hoax. Mark Zuckerberg doesn’t think it is a hoax and has turned his documents on Russian troll farms over to the government.
The Guardian reports that those streams of consciousness are supported by 68 percent of Americans who, in a June poll, said they are at least “moderately concerned” that Trump and/or his campaign associates had or have inappropriate ties to Russia. Do you think Trump’s connection to Russia is a hoax?
[Feature Image by Evan Vucci/AP Images]