Apr 21, 2017

Russia's role in Trumpland, not just the election

Alex Brandon / AP

The FBI gathered intelligence in the summer of 2016 confirming Russian operatives tried to influence Trump's team — not just the election itself, according to a CNN report out today.

Carter Page's Russia links: One of the targets was Trump's former campaign foreign policy advisor, Carter Page, and although we already knew Page traveled to give a speech at a prominent Russian university in July 2016 (in which he lambasted U.S. policy on Russia) the report today reveals the FBI had concerns he was compromised by Russian spies while there. The bureau suspected the spies maintained contact with him after he left the country as well.

Insight: Despite the fact that Page denies any wrongdoing in Russia, a former Obama administration official who was briefed on Russia's influence in the election said Russians working at think tanks, universities, and businesses are often working intelligence roles as well, so Page could have had conversations he didn't know were vital to Russian intelligence operations.

More on what we already knew about Page:

  1. The dossier compiled by a former MI6 agent reported that the Kremlin had tried developing a relationship with Page as part of its efforts to infiltrate the election, as BuzzFeed News reported January 10.
  2. The FBI successfully used the contested dossier as justification to obtain a warrant to secretly monitor Page because — and here's the key — the FBI had independently verified some of the dossier's contents, as The Washington Post reported April 11. We don't know which parts it verified.
  3. Page met with a Russian spy in New York who was trying to turn him in 2013. The spy, Victor Podobnyy, confirmed his intentions in a court filing. Page confirmed he talked with Podobnyy but said he hadn't done anything wrong, as BuzzFeed News reported April 3.
  4. Page met with Russian Ambassador Sergei Kislyak during the Republican National Convention, and although Page confirmed, he said he never did anything improper with relation to Russia.
  5. Page also traveled to Moscow to give a speech in December 2016 at a Russian state-run media company after Trump won the election, which was applauded by a Russian think tank. That think tank, run by former Russian intelligence operatives who were appointed by Putin, had plans to interfere in the election, as Reuters reported this week, citing two documents revealing propaganda plans.

Go deeper

Trump to install loyalist Ric Grenell as acting intelligence chief

Photo: Sylvain Gaboury/Patrick McMullan via Getty Images

President Trump confirmed in a tweet Wednesday night that he will install Richard Grenell, the current U.S. ambassador to Germany and a staunch defender of Trump, as the acting director of national intelligence.

Why it matters: The role, which was originally vacated by Dan Coats in August 2019, is one of grave responsibility. As acting DNI, Grenell will be charged with overseeing and integrating the U.S. intelligence community and will advise the president and the National Security Council on intelligence matters that concern national security.

Go deeperArrowUpdated 2 mins ago - Politics & Policy

What to watch in the Nevada debate

Photo Illustration: Eniola Odetunde/Axios. Photos: Cengiz Yardages and Mario Tama/Getty Images

Michael Bloomberg's wealth will fuel rather than shield him from tests and attacks when he makes his Democratic primary debate debut on the stage tonight in Las Vegas.

The state of play: Bernie Sanders is still the front-runner. So the other candidates must weigh which of the two presents a bigger threat to their viability: Sanders, with his combined delegate, polling and grassroots momentum? Or Bloomberg, with his bottomless budget?

Go deeperArrowUpdated 8 mins ago - Politics & Policy

Axios Dashboard

Keep up with breaking news throughout the day — sign up for our alerts.