“President” Donald Trump repeatedly has cast doubt on Russian interference in the 2016 election and raised doubts about Russia attempting to interfere in the 2020 elections. At one point, just after meeting Vladimir Putin one-on-one in Helsinki, Trump said this about Director of U.S. National Intelligence Dan Coats’ statements vs Russia’s statements:
“All I can do is ask the question. My people came to me, Dan Coats came to me and some others, they said they think it’s Russia. I have President Putin; he just said it’s not Russia. I will say this: I don’t see any reason why it would be. But I really do want to see the server.”
Coats testified today in front of the Senate Intelligence Committee on “worldwide threats,” including Russia. With respect to Russia, Coats testified differently than his boss might characterize the matter, informing the Committee: “We assess that foreign actors will view the 2020 U.S. elections as an opportunity to advance their interests. We expect them to refine their capabilities and add new tactics as they learn from each other’s experiences and efforts in previous elections.”
Coats included Russia and China among the “foreign actors” and his language would appear to contradict what Trump has stated. Reports today are emerging that Trump met one-on-one with Putin in Buenos Aires, despite Trump saying it was cancelled. Only a Russian interpreter was there and Melania Trump, who might speak Russian, but does speak French and Slovenian. We have no idea what the meetings entail, this not being the first.
We also have the situation in which the Treasury Department lifted sanctions on three organizations that have ties to Oleg Deripaska. We now have word that Congresswoman Jackie Speier has asked questions about Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin’s business ties with Leonid Blavatnik, a Ukrainian-born billionaire with whom he co-owned a Hollywood film company up until 2017. Blavatnik and Deripaska are partners in RuSal. Blavatnik’s name also arose today in connection with Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell. The Senate Leadership Fund, run by the Con’s former Chief of Staff, collected $3.5 million in 2016 and 2017 combined from Access Industries and an affiliate, and Access is owned by Blavatnik.