Additional Details: Hillary Emails, V. FBI, V State and Sidney

New Clinton email files detail FBI-State tussle over Benghazi message

Politico: Newly-released records about the Hillary Clinton email investigation shed new light on an early dispute between the FBI and the State Department over the classification of an email discussing the aftermath of the 2012 Benghazi attacks.

The 299 pages of internal FBI records, apparently released over the weekend on the FBI’s Freedom of Information Act page, describe the bureau’s reaction to State’s protest of an FBI decision to classify a November 2012 State email discussing arrests in the Benghazi attacks.

The email was the first from Clinton’s private account and server to be publicly identified as “SECRET,” fueling arguments that Clinton and State had been careless in handling sensitive information.

Notations applied to the message when it was reviewed in 2015 show it was classified because of the potential impact on U.S. relations overseas. However, the newly-disclosed FBI communications messages show one official there argued that the message should actually be classified based on its potential to disclose intelligence “sources and methods”—a designation that could have raised red flags with the press and on Capitol Hill.

“The redaction lists ‘interference with foreign relations as the rationale.’ The crux of States [sic] argument is they know better what will impact foreign relations and there is no longer a government in place” in Libya, the unidentified FBI official wrote to Michelle Jupina, the FBI Assistant Director for Records Management. “The more appropriate rationale is sources and methods. While the email does not name the particular official, this might be deduced and, given the threat of violence in the region, any surmise could be fatal for whoever cooperated with us. State will say no one will know if it is redacted, but that is not how classification works.”

The message shows Deputy Secretary of State for Management Patrick Kennedy intervened with the FBI to dispute the classification at least three times: in a May 14, 2015, call to International Operations Division chief Brian McCauley, at an in-person meeting at the State Department five days later and in a phone conversation with the head of FBI’s Counterterrorism Division, Michael Steinbach.

The unnamed FBI author of the message to Jupina said Kennedy summoned various officials to State to discuss the review of 55,000 of Clinton emails requested under FOIA. At that meeting, Kennedy asked the FBI representative and a Justice Department FOIA official to “stay behind to discuss the FBI determination” on classification in the first batch of Clinton emails, the FBI email says.

An email from Steinbach said he turned down Kennedy’s request that the information be withheld solely under a FOIA provision for protection of law enforcement sources, rather than by classifying it.

“I explained to Mr. Kennedy that to only exempt for (b)(7)(D) was not appropriate as the information in the two portions in question was classified at the Secret/NOFORN level,” Steinbach wrote.

Even after that decision, the FBI got another high-level contact on the issue from State that same day, with Secretary of State John Kerry’s chief of staff Jon Finer calling Jim Rybicki, then-deputy chief of staff to FBI Director James Comey.

“Finer…stated that he was not attempting to change [Steinbach’s] classification decision, and said that he just wanted to make sure that FBI leadership was aware of the decision and the procedural process and media attention it would likely trigger,” Rybicki wrote in an email to several colleagues. “I relayed back to the State Department that leadership is aware of the review process and decision.”

Rybicki said Finer asked if the FBI could classify the information rather than State doing so at FBI’s request. When the email was released, State officials said they were withholding it at FBI’s request.

State Department spokesman John Kirby said on Monday that the new records demonstrate the department’s longstanding contention that it did not feel the specific document needed to be upgraded and that there were discussions among agencies about the issue.

“Classification is an art, not a science, and individuals with classification authority sometimes have different views. We have an obligation to ensure determinations as they relate to classification are made appropriately,” Kirby said in a statement.

He added, “With respect to Mr. Finer, the material recently released by the FBI makes clear that he did not contact them to change the classification of the email. On the contrary, this was routine contact to ensure appropriate leadership in both agencies were prepared to respond to questions. As is well known and was discussed publicly at the time, the State Department did upgrade the document at the request of the FBI when we released it back in May 2015.”

Some indications of the FBI-State dispute appeared in records released in October, leading then-Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump to argue on the campaign trail that Kennedy had proposed a trade-off where State would increase FBI staffing levels overseas if State withdrew its claim that the Benghazi-related email was classified.

The notion of such a quid pro quo apparently originated with a records official at the FBI, but Kennedy flatly denied it. In addition, McCauley said he did not believe Kennedy was proposing such a trade-off, although the pair did discuss both issues in a single phone call.

While the classification dispute over the Benghazi-related message appears to have been heavily litigated, it would wind up being just the tip of the iceberg. In a statement in July, Comey said 110 emails in Clinton’s account were classified at the time they were sent, with eight email chains considered “Top Secret” at the time they were sent and 36 chains containing “Secret”-level information. None of those messages was properly marked as classified, he said.

The newly-released FBI emails and memos also contain some other details about the Clinton email probe that have not been previously reported or received little notice:

–The Secret Service rebuffed the FBI’s initial request for assistance in the investigation, according to a memo which suggests some tensions between the two law enforcement agencies.

At a July 28, 2015, meeting, a Secret Service official “advised that his management told him that any FBI request for information or assistance related to this matter would need to come via written request from the Department of Justice to the Department of Homeland Security, which would then forward the request to the USSS,” an FBI memo said. After consulting with Secret Service managers about the requested assistance, the official “refused to identify [to the FBI] the specific USSS manager(s) to whom he spoke.”

The FBI eventually obtained information on the Secret Service’s assistance to former President Bill Clinton with security issues related to his computer server, which eventually became the one hosting Hillary Clinton’s much-discussed private account.

–The FBI apparently took a week to notify the Justice Department after receiving a formal referral from the Intelligence Community Inspector General about the Clinton email matter in July 2015. A memo from Deputy FBI Director Mark Giuliano says the FBI got the referral on July 6, formally opened its full investigation on July 10, and first advised Deputy Attorney General Sally Yates on July 13.

–The investigation itself was treated as classified at its outset, but was declassified in August 2015. Internal FBI memos say it was determined that an initial batch of emails from Clinton’s account released by State under FOIA contained “Top Secret” information. The memo declassifying the investigation says that information was deemed not to be so sensitive that it could not be discussed more widely. “No previously unknown sources or informants were revealed in the identified material…. No sensitive sources or methods were disclosed.”

–The email investigation was also designated as “sensitive” and its records were closely-held at the FBI because of Clinton’s status as a political candidate.

–The FBI obtained a special “one-time” approval to show Clinton confidant Sidney Blumenthal a copy of one of his own emails to Clinton about the political situation in Kyrgyzstan. A January 5, 2016, FBI memo says the email has “since been deemed to contain classified FBI information.” The “SECRET” portion of the April 2010 message relates to what Blumenthal called an “ongoing criminal investigation.”

–An internal FBI profile of longtime Bill Clinton aide Justin Cooper derived information from a publication of the conservative watchdog group, Judicial Watch. The group had tracked Cooper’s links to Teneo Holdings, a consulting firm founded by individuals with close ties to the Clintons.

FBI Released New Unseen Hillary Emails

FBI Quietly Releases 300 Pages Of Hillary Clinton Investigation Records

DailyCaller: The FBI quietly released nearly 300 pages of records from its investigation of Hillary Clinton’s private email server on Sunday night.

This is the fifth release of Clinton investigation records from the FBI. The documents deal with the handling of computer hardware collected from Clinton’s lawyers for the investigation and also contain emails from FBI officials discussing the classification of Clinton’s emails.

The FBI has previously released notes from interviews it conducted during its investigation of Clinton’s handling of classified information. FBI director James Comey declined to recommend that Clinton be charged in the case, and Attorney General Loretta Lynch accepted that advice.

The emails included in the documents are from the months prior to the formal opening of the Clinton email probe, which occurred on July 10, 2015. The exchanges show disagreements between the FBI and State Department over whether some of Clinton’s personal emails should be classified.

In one April 27, 2015 email, an FBI official wrote to other officials that they were “about to get drug into an issue on classification” of Clinton’s emails. The official, whose name is redacted, said that the State Department was “forum shopping,” or seeking a favorable opinion on the classification issue by asking different officials to rate emails as unclassified.


From FBI document release

Other email traffic sheds light on a controversy involving State Department under secretary for management Patrick Kennedy and a request he made in 2015 that the FBI reduce its classification of a Clinton email related to the Sept. 11, 2012 attacks in Benghazi.

Clinton investigation notes released by the FBI in October showed that an FBI official said during an interview as part of the email probe that Kennedy asked him and others at the FBI to relax classifications on some emails.

The new FBI release contains a May 21, 2015 email in which Michael Steinbach, the FBI’s assistant director of the counterterrorism division, detailed a conversation he had with Kennedy about the classification issue.

Steinbach said that the FBI had determined that one of Clinton’s emails should be classified using b(1) and b(7) redactions, used to protect information in the interest of national defense and to prevent the disclosure of a confidential source, respectively. Kennedy asked Steinbach to classify the email using only the b(1) category.

An email sent two days earlier from a separate FBI official provided more information about the dispute.

The official, whose name is redacted, wrote that the Clinton email was redacted and classified on the rationale that it contained information that would cause “interference with foreign relations.”

The FBI official wrote that the email could disclose sources and investigative methods used by the bureau.

“While the email does not name the particular official, this might be deduced and, given the threat of violence in the region, any surmise could be fatal for whoever cooperated with us,” the official wrote.

“State will say no one will know if it is redacted, but that is not how classification works,” they added.

The official wrote that he informed Kennedy of that rationale and that Kennedy said he would be in contact with Steinbach.

The FBI release also includes an email from the attorney of Bryan Pagliano, the Hillary Clinton State Department aide who set up and managed her secret email server. In the email, Mark MacDougall, Pagliano’s lawyer, informed the FBI that Pagliano would decline the bureau’s request for an investigation. Pagliano would eventually meet with the FBI in December, but only after receiving limited immunity from the Department of Justice.


In part from AJC:

The documents released included a series of letters from the FBI to what seem to be internet service providers and/or major telecommunications companies, asking them to preserve any documents related to this investigation.

Even more interesting about those letters, was the specific request to keep this query secret, and not reveal it to the subjects being investigated, “as the FBI’s investigation may be jeopardized by this type of disclosure.”

The letters were all signed by Charles Kable, the Section Chief of the FBI’s Counterintelligence Division.

Also included, FBI communications with the State Department, asking that agency to preserve emails that were sent to

The names of 19 individuals were listed in the FBI letter to the State Department Inspector General – all those names were redacted in this FBI release.

The same letter was also sent by the FBI to Secretary of State John Kerry.

The newly released records indicate the FBI went so far as to serve the letter addressed to the State Department Inspector General and the Secretary of State, though it seemed more of a formality for Kerry.

“The preservation letter was served at U.S. Department of State’s Visitor Center,” read one of the released FBI documents.

Also included in the documents are email exchanges between the FBI and State Department over how to treat some of Clinton’s emails that were being released before the election.

“Attached is an email forwarded to us by State Dept. for coordination,” reads one email that had the subject line of “State Department Emails – FOIA Coordination.”

“The email concerns Benghazi. It is from former Sec. Clinton’s emails,” the note adds. The name of the sender and the recipient of that email were redacted.

That was part of a series of email exchanges between the FBI and State Department on how to deal with the release of certain Clinton emails under the Freedom of Information Act.

“I’ve called the State’s Legal Advisor’s Office a number of times and haven’t connected,” read one of the many emails released.

“Just received a call from State,” read another. “They want to argue about the b1 portion,” referring to one of the classifications.

The emails discussing what to do about Clinton’s own emails were also subject to similar classification issues, as those notices dot the margins of the FBI’s release.

The FBI release also includes an email from the lawyer for Brian Pagliano, the former aide who helped Hillary Clinton set up and maintain her private email server – it notified officials in August of 2015 that he would not be cooperating with the investigation.

The FBI documents also detail the search for information from Platte River Networks, the high tech company that dealt with the Clinton server.

On August 12, 2015, the FBI took possession of a Dell Poweredge Server from that company – the box “Collected/Seized” was checked.

The FBI documents show the breadth of the investigation into the Clinton email matter growing dramatically – whereas the FBI at first was asking for email records from 19 different names, by August 18, 2015, that had grown to 422 in a “Request for Preservation of Records.”

The recipient of that letter was unclear; the address and name was redacted by the FBI.

Another letter from August 18, 2015 asked for records to be preserved for over 900 people – again, the recipient of that letter is unknown, redacted by the FBI.

As with other requests, the FBI asks that the recipient not reveal the FBI investigation.

There are also other intriguing documents, like this one – which hint at some kind of tip related to the Clinton investigation.

In this release, which was made on Sunday night without any publicity, the FBI did not release any emails to or from Hillary Clinton.





Read more:

Hillary was a Target of Russia Spies for Many Years

The Obama administration says that even though a prominent Democratic Party fundraiser close to Secretary of State Hillary Clinton allegedly was targeted for cultivation by a Russian spy ring, there is no evidence that Clinton herself was a target of the spies.

“There is no reason to believe that the Secretary of State was a special target of this spy ring,” P. J. Crowley, assistant secretary of state and Mrs. Clinton’s chief spokesman, told Declassified. News reports suggested that New York financier and tycoon Alan Patricof, a longtime Clinton supporter, was probably the American financier alleged, in a Russian spy message, to have had several meetings with a Russian operative who used the name Cynthia Murphy. Murphy was one of eight alleged Russian spies arrested on Monday by federal authorities, who accused them of carrying out long-term, “deep cover” assignments inside the U.S. for Russia’s principal, post–Cold War foreign-intelligence agency, known as the SVR. More from Time.

Russian spy ring complaint  <— 37 page deposition and fascinating read including foreign trips, fake documents and burying money.

According to court documents relating to the spies’ arrest, Murphy had been in contact with a fundraiser and “personal friend” of Hillary Clinton, who took the office of Secretary of State in January 2009. The fundraiser, Alan Patricof, said in a statement in 2010 he had retained Murphy’s financial services firm more than two years before, had met with her a few times and spoke with her on the phone frequently. Patricof said they “never” spoke about politics, the government or world affairs.

A spokesperson for Clinton told ABC News in 2010 that at the time there was “no reason to think the Secretary was a target of this spy ring.” More here from ABCNews.


FBI: WASHINGTON—Ten individuals pleaded guilty today in Manhattan federal court to conspiring to serve as unlawful agents of the Russian Federation within the United States and will be immediately expelled from the United States, the Justice Department announced today.

In hearings today before Judge Kimba M. Wood in U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York, each of the 10 defendants arrested on June 27, 2010, pleaded guilty to one count of conspiracy to act as an agent of a foreign government within the United States without notifying the U.S. Attorney General. Under their plea agreements, the defendants were required to disclose their true identities in court today and to forfeit certain assets attributable to the criminal offenses.

The defendants known as “Richard Murphy” and “Cynthia Murphy” admitted they are Russian citizens named Vladimir Guryev and Lydia Guryev and are agents of the Russian Federation. Defendants “Michael Zottoli” and “Patrica Mills” admitted they are Russian citizens named Mikhail Kutsik and Natalia Pereverzeva, and are agents of the Russian Federation. Defendants “Donald Howard Heathfield” and “Tracey Lee Ann Foley” admitted they are Russian citizens named Andrey Bezrukov and Elena Vavilova, and are agents of the Russian Federation. “Juan Lazaro” admitted that he is a Russian citizen named Mikhail Anatonoljevich Vasenkov and is an agent of the Russian Federation.

The defendants Vicky Pelaez, Anna Chapman and Mikhail Semenko, who operated in this country under their true names, admitted that they are agents of the Russian Federation; and Chapman and Semenko admitted they are Russian citizens.

The United States has agreed to transfer these individuals to the custody of the Russian Federation. In exchange, the Russian Federation has agreed to release four individuals who are incarcerated in Russia for alleged contact with Western intelligence agencies.

“This was an extraordinary case, developed through years of work by investigators, intelligence lawyers, and prosecutors, and the agreement we reached today provides a successful resolution for the United States and its interests,” Attorney General Eric Holder said.

“Counterintelligence is a top FBI investigative priority, and this case in particular represents the dedicated efforts of the men and women who have worked tirelessly behind the scenes to counter the efforts of those who would steal our nation’s vital secrets,” said FBI Director Robert S. Mueller.

This case is the result of a multi-year investigation conducted by the FBI and other elements of the U.S. intelligence community; the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of New York; and the Counterespionage Section and the Office of Intelligence within the Justice Department’s National Security Division.

The prosecution was handled by Assistant U.S. Attorneys Michael Farbiarz, Glen Kopp, and Jason Smith of the Terrorism and International Narcotics Unit of the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of New York, and Trial Attorneys Kathleen Kedian and Richard Scott of the Counterespionage Section of the Justice Department’s National Security Division.

***Even back in 2009, the Hillary camp was in denial. So examining the spy ring facts from 2010 after a long investigation reads as follows:

More from Time: According to FBI documents about the investigation that were made public on Monday, investigators apparently intercepted a February 2009 electronic message among alleged members of the spy ring reporting that alleged spy Cynthia Murphy “had several work-related personal meetings” with a person described as a “prominent New York–based financier.” The message also described the financier as “prominent in politics,” “an active fundraiser” for an unnamed political party, and “a personal friend of” someone the FBI described as “a current Cabinet official, name omitted.” The government says that Russian intelligence headquarters, known in spy jargon since the Cold War as Moscow Center, sent a reply in which it said that the unnamed financier had been “checked in C’s [Moscow Center’s] database—he is clean. Of course he is very interesting ‘target.’ Try to build up little by little relations with him moving beyond just [work] framework. Maybe he can provide [Murphy] with remarks re US foreign policy ‘roumours’ [sic] about White house [sic] internal ‘kitchen,’ invite her to venues … etc. In short, consider carefully all options in regard to [financier].”

Patricof, a well-known venture capitalist and longtime supporter of Bill and Hillary Clinton, confirmed to The Washington Post that he believed he was the financier and fundraiser targeted by the alleged spies. He apparently met the woman who called herself Cynthia Murphy while a client of a Manhattan tax-preparation service called Morea Financial Services, where Murphy, who reportedly had an MBA degree, worked. (Morea declined to comment.)

Patricof did not respond to several messages left by Declassified on Tuesday and Wednesday requesting comment, but told The Washington Post that he and Murphy “never discussed anything but paying the bills and taxes in normal phone calls or meetings. … She never once asked me about government, politics, or anything remotely close to that subject.” Patricof was first identified as the prominent fundraiser mentioned in FBI documents by Politico.

While Patricof’s political activities have been closely identified in news reports with the Clintons, a senior U.S. official familiar with the spy investigation, who asked for anonymity when discussing sensitive information, said that Patricof also “knows lots of political figures.” The official added that from information available so far, “it doesn’t appear that [the accused Russian spies] were particularly successful in gaining insights beyond what is readily available through Google.” Court papers say that in addition to trying to get close to a wealthy fundraiser like Patricof, the Russian undercover spies also established contact with “a former high-ranking United States Government national security official”—so far unidentified—and another unnamed person who worked at an unidentified U.S. government research facility on strategic planning related to nuclear weapons.

Several of the accused Russian spies are expected to appear at federal court hearings in Manhattan, Boston, and Alexandria, Va., on Thursday.

UPDATE: After this item was posted, financier Alan Patricof sent us the following statement:  ”Cindy Murphy worked for Morea Financial Group, a firm I retained approximately two and a half years ago to handle my personal bookkeeping, bill paying, accounting and tax services. During the course of that time, I met with her a limited number of times and spoke with her frequently on the phone on matters relating to my personal finances. We never – not once – discussed any matter other than my finances and certainly she never inquired about, nor did we ever discuss, any matters relating to politics, the government, or world affairs. Since I understand she was employed by Morea approximately ten years before I became a client, I highly doubt that I could have been an intended target by her.”



Robby and Donna Lost it for Hillary, But now Those Trump Picks

As we approach the inauguration of Donald Trump in a few short weeks, reflecting on what happened and what will happen is a task readers should assume. Politics is a blood-sport, that is beyond dispute. Fake news is still going on out there and crazy websites are still getting read that produce articles out of pure conjecture and without facts or evidence.

This post is not about slamming anyone, it is about truth and offers up some lessons, especially when it comes to what we must continue to watch for in the near future.

When journalists do spend the time to perform interviews, look for documents, have transcripts and see actual dollars change hands, one must take notice. There are many in the media that in fact do a great job while often others do not and gaining attention to additional facts is cumbersome and difficult.

Hat tip to Politico for seeking some real answers as to who was responsible for Hillary losing Michigan. If it happened in Michigan it happened in the other battleground states. Seems the Hillary headquarters in Brooklyn never had a pulse on the nation’s electorate and when polling demonstrated figures that were not in Hillary’s favor, panic set in not only at the DNC, but at the state level and at the union support level. The one size fits all playbook as designed by Robby Mook did not work. Remarkable….Trump continued to edge his opponent, Hillary. The messaging was right for Trump however, is that process for his cabinet choices all he claims that it is? No.

There are some real lessons here for the whole American electorate and this speaks to what we need to beware of in coming days, weeks and months.


In part from Politico:

Everybody could see Hillary Clinton was cooked in Iowa. So when, a week-and-a-half out, the Service Employees International Union started hearing anxiety out of Michigan, union officials decided to reroute their volunteers, giving a desperate team on the ground around Detroit some hope.

They started prepping meals and organizing hotel rooms.

SEIU — which had wanted to go to Michigan from the beginning, but been ordered not to — dialed Clinton’s top campaign aides to tell them about the new plan. According to several people familiar with the call, Brooklyn was furious.

Turn that bus around, the Clinton team ordered SEIU. Those volunteers needed to stay in Iowa to fool Donald Trump into competing there, not drive to Michigan, where the Democrat’s models projected a 5-point win through the morning of Election Day.

Michigan organizers were shocked. It was the latest case of Brooklyn ignoring on the-ground intel and pleas for help in a race that they felt slipping away at the end. Read the full summary here, it is a fascinating read.

**** Now on to Donald….remember that swamp and that whole lobby thing he touted? Remember his words about pay to play? Sheesh…

**** Hat tip to the Center for Public Integrity:

Donald Trump rewarding million-dollar donors with plum postings

Ultra-rich loyalists populating president-elect’s administration, transition team

Update, Dec. 9, 2016, 2:22 p.m.: This story has been updated.

Donald Trump routinely blasts his political foes for “pay-to-play” politics and “crony capitalism and corruption.”

But Trump is now rewarding some of his biggest campaign bankrollers with unparalleled access, influence, prestige and power in his presidential administration-in-waiting, according to a Center for Public Integrity analysis of new campaign finance disclosures filed with the Federal Election Commission.

In all, 18 ultra-wealthy Americans — the majority are billionaires whose fortunes are greatly affected by government decisions — contributed at least $1 million to the Republican’s presidential campaign and political efforts supporting Trump’s bid, the Center for Public Integrity’s analysis shows.

At least one person on this list, former World Wrestling Entertainment executive Linda McMahon, is slated to serve in Trump’s Cabinet: Trump this week tapped McMahon to lead the federal government’s Small Business Administration. In addition to spending $6.2 million to support Trump’s presidential effort, she and husband Vince McMahon have together donated millions of dollars to Trump’s scandal-plagued charitable foundation.

Trump is also nominating six-figure contributors to cabinet-level positions: billionaire philanthropist Betsy DeVos as education secretary, restaurant mogul Andy Puzder as labor secretary and billionaire investor Wilbur Ross as commerce secretary. And four days before Election Day, Department of Housing and Urban Development secretary nominee Ben Carson’s old presidential campaign committee likewise gave a pro-Trump super PAC $100,000.

Another top backer, hedge fund manager Robert Mercer, gave $2 million to a pro-Trump super PAC he helped establish with his daughter, Rebekah Mercer, called “Make America Number 1.”

The father-daughter duo helped convince Trump to overhaul his campaign leadership in August and install operatives with close ties to the Mercer operation. They are now poised to play a leading role in a new organization designed to advance Trump’s legislative agenda. Rebekah Mercer is also a member of Trump’s presidential transition team executive committee.

In a sign of how much the Mercers have endeared themselves to the president-elect, Trump, on Saturday, made a surprise appearance at the Mercer’s “Villains and Heroes”-themed Christmas costume party on Long Island, New York.

Then there’s Silicon Valley investor Peter Thiel, who gave $1 million to the Mercer-led, pro-Trump “Make America Number 1” super PAC during the presidential campaign’s final days, new federal campaign finance disclosures show.

One of the few tech titans to openly speak about his support for Trump, Thiel is now on the executive council of Trump’s presidential transition team.

Joe Ricketts, the billionaire founder of online brokerage TD Ameritrade who initially funded an anti-Trump super PAC, also earned Trump’s favor after contributing $1 million in September to pro-Trump super PAC “Future45.”

Ricketts son, Todd Ricketts, helped run “Future45.” Todd Ricketts is now Trump’s nominee for deputy commerce secretary.

Trump has given his No. 1 and No. 2 overall financial backers — casino tycoon Sheldon Adelson, and his wife, Miriam Adelson — new jobs since winning the presidency: They’re finance vice-chairmen of Trump’s inaugural committee, which is working to raise tens of millions of dollars to pay for his inauguration. It’s an event that itself promises top donors posh perks and exclusive access to Trump and his administration.

Sheldon Adelson — the chairman and CEO of the Las Vegas Sands Corp. — waited until late October to put big dollars into backing Trump. But both he and Miriam Adelson ultimately invested $10.2 million each into pro-Trump groups. The Adelsons are strong supporters of Israel and opponents of online gambling.

During the Republican presidential primary, Trump had accused Adelson of attempting to use his wealth to control Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla., who was also seeking the GOP presidential nomination.

Representatives from Trump’s transition team did not respond to requests for comment.

Trump has promised to “drain the swamp” in Washington, D.C. — an allusion to what he says is a capital city controlled by corrupt, self-interested lobbyists, political operatives and businesspeople.

On one hand, Trump can argue that many of his top donors are not creatures of Washington, D.C., but rather, successful outsiders he trusts to reform the federal government, said Meredith McGehee, chief of policy, programs and strategy for campaign finance reform organization Issue One.

On the other hand, Trump offering top donors key postings and intimate access “raises the question of whether they bought their positions,” she said.

In the end, Trump was the biggest single bankroller of his campaign. He ultimately contributed $66.1 million of his own funds to his presidential campaign — about 19 percent of the $339 million he ultimately raised for the primary and general elections, federal disclosures show.

Like all candidates, Trump’s campaign was prohibited from raising more than $5,400 per donor — $2,700 for the primary and $2,700 for the general election.

But a host of super PACs ultimately sprang up to support the billionaire businessman and celebrity reality TV star. And thanks to the U.S. Supreme Court’s Citizens United v. FEC decision in 2010, and a related lower court ruling, these groups are allowed to accept donations of any amount from contributors.

Trump also operated two joint fundraising groups with the Republican National Committee that could collect six-figure checks, money which was split between the Trump campaign, RNC and several state Republican parties.

Not all of Trump’s top donors have received key posting in Trump’s administration or transition team — yet.

Take Robert McNair, CEO of the Houston Texans, who doubled down on Trump in the final weeks of the election. According to new campaign finance filings, McNair contributed $2 million to a pro-Trump group called “Great America PAC” on Oct. 21.

But another football mogul — Woody Johnson, owner of the New York Jets and a major Trump donor — is a member of Trump’s inaugural committee. Trump is also reportedly considering Johnson for nomination as the United States’ ambassador to the United Kingdom.

Modern presidents, both Democrats and Republicans, have regularly offered top donors ambassadorships. Trump has offered no indication he will change this practice. Trump also has yet to begin doling out most ambassador positions.

Two other top Trump donors — billionaire Diane Hendricks, the richest woman in Wisconsin, and billionaire Stephen Feinberg, CEO and founder of investment firm Cerberus Capital Management — served as economic advisers to Trump during the campaign. It’s not yet clear whether either will have a more formal role in Trump’s administration.

Bernard Marcus, the billionaire co-founder of Home Depot, donated $7 million to pro-Trump super PACs, ranking him just behind the Adelsons in overall contributions. Marcus says he has no interest in a formal role with the Trump administration, but has said he will be available if Trump wants his advice.

Former Goldman Sachs executive Steve Mnuchin doesn’t rank among Trump’s top donors.

But Mnuchin, who as Trump’s top campaign fundraiser was responsible for convincing so many wealthy individuals to give Trump money, is also enjoying the spoils of victory.

Trump has nominated Mnuchin as his U.S. Treasury secretary.

Update, Dec. 9, 2016, 2:22 p.m.: This story has been updated to reflect that 18, not 17, ultra-wealthy Americans donated at least $1 million to pro-Trump efforts. A newly filed campaign finance report by pro-Trump super PAC “Great America PAC” showed that billionaire Marvel Entertainment CEO Isaac Perlmutter contributed $5 million to the group, adding him to the list. The same report showed that billionaire Dallas banker Andy Beal contributed $2 million to Great America PAC on Nov. 1, which increased his total contributions in the table.

Chris Zubak-Skees contributed to this report. For a graphic on who donated more than $1.0 million to Trump, go here.



Fake U.S. Embassy in Ghana for 7 Years, Embarrassed?

Is anyone at the U.S. State Department embarrassed that a fake embassy operated in Ghana for 7 years, anyone? Hello John Kerry, did you question Hillary at all on this. She was there in 2012. It should be noted that in 2012 Gene Cretz was the U.S. Ambassador to Ghana and he was also the Ambassador to Libya just prior to Ambassador Chris Stevens. Something really seems to smell here. Anyone response from Samantha Power, the U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations, did she ever visit the country?


The Secretary will be going to Ghana, which is one of our most important democratic and development partners in Africa. She will be attending the funeral tomorrow of the late John Atta Mills. President Mills was recently in the United States to attend the G-8 meeting at Camp David, and five weeks before that he was in the United States on a state visit to meet with President Obama. You will all recall that on July 11th of 2009, President Obama traveled to Ghana on his trip to Africa and made his famous speech outlining our policy, in which he said we wanted partnership and not patronage, we wanted a mutual respectful and responsible relationship between the United States and Africa, and where he urged Africa to strengthen its democratic institutions, famously saying Africa needs strong institutions, not strong men.

Ghana has been a democracy, a multiparty democracy, since 1992. It has had some of the best elections in Africa. There have been changes not only of presidency but also of the political party in power. It probably has one of the best democracies on the continent, and it certainly has one of the most well-known and respected election commissioners on the continent.

Ghana has had a smooth transition since the death of John Atta Mills. The Vice President was sworn in very quickly without any political upheaval or turmoil. The country will have presidential elections in December. We think those elections will be like the last ones, hotly contested between the two leading parties. But we expect those elections will be free, fair, and transparent, and that they will also be peaceful and internationally monitored.

The Secretary will have an opportunity to meet with the new President, President Mahama, at his residence shortly after we arrive in Accra this evening. It’s out of respect and appreciation for the close relationship that President Mahama is doing this. We regard him as a friend of the United States. He is a Muslim in predominantly a Christian country, but the religious relationships between Muslims and Christians across Ghana is very, very good (inaudible). More here from the State Department spokesperson.

**** Now for the fake part and wonder if Hillary or Barack or John even went to the embassy which is standard protocol and if they did, they knew it was fake. Where there Marines protecting the building? Hah…

**** The exterior of the fake embassy in Accra, in an undated photo.

The exterior of the fake embassy in Accra, in an undated photo.  (State Dept.)

State Dept: No visas from fake American embassy in Ghana used to enter US

None of the altered visas issued at a fake U.S. embassy in West Africa for seven years appears to have been used to enter the United States, the State Department said Monday.

State Department spokesman John Kirby said the visas were created from bought, stolen or otherwise illegally obtained passports.

U.S. officials this summer discovered and shuttered the fake embassy in Accra, Ghana. However, news reports about the criminal operation began to appear only in the past several weeks, following a Nov. 2 posting on the State Department’s website.

The embassy building flew a U.S. flag every morning for three days a week, and inside the building was a picture of President Obama.

The operation was purportedly run by Ghanaian and Turkish organized crime rings that “were able to pay off corrupt officials,” the State Department said in November.

And those who posed as consulate employees were in fact Turkish citizens who spoke English and Dutch.

Responding to skeptical reporters’ questions Monday, Kirby said those who bought the fake visas likely didn’t try to enter the country with them or were stopped at the border because the visas were of “pretty poor quality.”

He also said valid U.S. visas contain the kind of digital data that is nearly impossible to replicate.

A fake Netherlands embassy in Ghana also was shuttered in this summer’s sting.

Kirby said Monday that he has no reports of other fake operations but that the joint task force that shuttered the fake embassies, Operation Spartan Vanguard, continues to look for them.

The task force is led by U.S. Diplomatic Services and includes Canadian embassy officials and local police.

Those who bought the fake visas paid as much as $6,000.

Kirby also said Monday that none of the fake visas was stolen from the real U.S. embassy in Ghana.

The raids led to the recovery of 150 passports from 10 countries and visas from the U.S., India, South Africa and the European Schengen zone.

Those involved in the scheme would drive “to the most remote parts of West Africa” to find visa applicants and transport them to Accra, the State Department said. They also used fliers and billboards to lure victims from Ghana, Ivory Coast and Togo.