campaign

Manafort offered to give Russian billionaire ‘private briefings’ on 2016 campaign

https://www.washingtonpost.com/politics/manafort-offered-to-give-russian-billionaire-private-briefings-on-2016-campaign/2017/09/20/399bba1a-9d48-11e7-8ea1-ed975285475e_story.html?utm_term=.d55663be7dee

 

Less than two weeks before Donald Trump accepted the Republican presidential nomination, his campaign chairman offered to provide briefings on the race to a Russian billionaire closely aligned with the Kremlin, according to people familiar with the discussions.

Paul Manafort made the offer in an email to an overseas intermediary, asking that a message be sent to Oleg Deripaska, an aluminum magnate with whom Manafort had done business in the past, these people said.

“If he needs private briefings we can accommodate,” Manafort wrote in the July 7, 2016, email, portions of which were read to The Washington Post along with other Manafort correspondence from that time.

The emails are among tens of thousands of documents that have been turned over to congressional investigators and special counsel Robert S. Mueller III’s team as they probe whether Trump associates coordinated with Russia as part of Moscow’s efforts to interfere in the 2016 U.S. election.

There is no evidence in the documents showing that Deripaska received Manafort’s offer or that any briefings took place. And a spokeswoman for Deripaska dismissed the email ex­changes as scheming by “consultants in the notorious ‘beltway bandit’ industry.”

Nonetheless, investigators believe that the exchanges, which reflect Manafort’s willingness to profit from his prominent role alongside Trump, created a potential opening for Russian interests at the highest level of a U.S. presidential campaign, according to people familiar with the probe. Those people, like others interviewed for this story, spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss matters under investigation.

Several of the ex­changes, which took place between Manafort and a Kiev-based employee of his international political consulting practice, focused on money that Manafort believed he was owed by Eastern European clients.

The notes appear to be written in deliberately vague terms, with Manafort and his longtime employee, Konstantin Kilimnik, never explicitly mentioning Deripaska by name. But investigators believe that key passages refer to Deripaska, who is referenced in some places by his initials, “OVD,” according to people familiar with the emails. One email uses “black caviar,” a Russian delicacy, in what investigators believe is a veiled reference to payments Manafort hoped to receive from former clients.

In one April exchange days after Trump named Manafort as a campaign strategist, Manafort referred to his positive press and growing reputation and asked, “How do we use to get whole?”

Manafort spokesman Jason Maloni said Wednesday that the email ex­changes reflected an “innocuous” effort to collect past debts.

“It’s no secret Mr. Manafort was owed money by past clients,” Maloni said.

Maloni said that no briefings with Deripaska ever took place but that, in his email, Manafort was offering what would have been a “routine” briefing on the state of the campaign.

Vera Kurochkina, a spokeswoman for Rusal, the company led by Deripaska, on Wednesday derided inquiries from The Post that she said “veer into manufactured questions so grossly false and insinuating that I am concerned even responding to these fake connotations provides them the patina of reality.”

Collectively, the thousands of emails present a complex picture. For example, an email exchange from May shows Manafort rejecting a proposal from an unpaid campaign adviser that Trump travel abroad to meet with top Russian leaders. “We need someone to communicate that DT is not doing these trips,” Manafort wrote, according to an email read to The Post.

The email exchanges with Kilimnik add to an already perilous legal situation for Manafort, whose real estate dealings and overseas bank accounts are of intense interest for Mueller and congressional investigators as part of their examination of Russia’s 2016 efforts. People close to Manafort believe Mueller’s goal is to force the former campaign chairman to flip on his former Trump associates and provide information.

In August, Mueller’s office executed a search warrant during an early-morning raid of Manafort’s Alexandria, Va., condominium, an unusually aggressive step in a white-collar criminal matter.

Mueller has also summoned Maloni, the Manafort spokesman, and Manafort’s former lawyer to answer questions in front of a grand jury. Last month, Mueller’s team told Manafort and his attorneys that they believed they could pursue criminal charges against him and urged him to cooperate in the probe by providing information about other members of the campaign. The New York Times reported this week that prosecutors had threatened Manafort with indictment.

The emails now under review by investigators and described to The Post could provide prosecutors with additional leverage.

Kilimnik did not respond to requests for comment. A spokesman for Mueller declined to comment.

Deripaska, one of Russia’s richest men, is widely seen as an important ally of President Vladi­mir Putin. A U.S. diplomatic cable from 2006, published by WikiLeaks, referred to Deripaska as “among the 2-3 oligarchs Putin turns to on a regular basis.”

The billionaire has struggled to get visas to travel to the United States because of concerns he might have ties to organized crime in Russia, according to the Wall Street Journal. He has vigorously denied any criminal ties.

Russian officials have frequently raised the visa matter over the years with U.S. diplomats, according to former U.S. officials familiar with the appeals.

In 2008, one of Manafort’s business partners, Rick Davis, arranged for Deripaska to meet then-presidential candidate John McCain at an international economic conference in Switzerland.

At the time, Davis was on leave from Manafort’s firm and was serving as McCain’s campaign manager. The meeting caused a stir, given McCain’s longtime criticism of Putin’s leadership.

The Post reported in 2008 that Deripaska jointly emailed Davis and Manafort after the meeting to thank them for setting it up. Davis did not respond Wednesday to a request for comment.

At the time of the McCain meeting, Manafort was working in Ukraine, advising a Russia-friendly political party. He ultimately helped to elect Viktor Yanukovych as president in 2010. In 2014, Yanukovych was ousted from office during street protests and fled to Moscow.

Manafort and Deripaska have both confirmed that they had a business relationship in which Manafort was paid as an investment consultant. In 2014, Deripaska accused Manafort in a Cayman Islands court of taking nearly $19 million intended for investments and then failing to account for the funds, return them or respond to numerous inquiries about exactly how the money was used. There are no signs in court documents that the case has been closed.

The emails under review by investigators also show that Manafort waved off questions within the campaign about his international dealings, according to people familiar with the correspondence.

Manafort wrote in an April 2016 email to Trump press aide Hope Hicks that she should disregard a list of questions from The Post about his relationships with Deripaska and a Ukrainian businessman, according to people familiar with the email.

When another news organization asked questions in June, Manafort wrote Hicks that he never had any ties to the Russian government, according to people familiar with the email.

Hicks, now the White House communications director, declined to comment.

Former campaign officials said that Manafort frequently told his campaign colleagues that assertions made about him by the press were specious. They also privately shared concerns about whether Manafort was always putting the candidate’s interests first.

The emails turned over to investigators show that Manafort remained in regular contact with Kilimnik, his longtime employee in Kiev, throughout his five-month tenure at the Trump campaign.

Kilimnik, a Soviet army veteran, had worked for Manafort in his Kiev political consulting operation since 2005. Kilimnik began as an office manager and translator and attained a larger role with Manafort, working as a liaison to Deripaska and others, people familiar with his work have said.

People close to Manafort told The Post that he and Kilimnik used coded language as a precaution because they were transmitting sensitive information internationally.

In late July, eight days after Trump delivered his GOP nomination acceptance speech in Cleveland, Kilimnik wrote Manafort with an update, according to people familiar with the email exchange.

Kilimnik wrote in the July 29 email that he had met that day with the person “who gave you the biggest black caviar jar several years ago,” according to the people familiar with the exchange. Kilimnik said it would take some time to discuss the “long caviar story,” and the two agreed to meet in New York.

Investigators believe that the reference to the pricey Russian luxury item may have been a reference to Manafort’s past lucrative relationship with Deripaska, according to people familiar with the probe. Others familiar with the exchange say it may be a reference to Ukrainian business titans with whom Manafort had done business.

Kilimnik and Manafort have previously confirmed that they were in contact during the campaign, including meeting twice in person — once in May 2016, as Manafort’s role in Trump’s campaign was expanding, and again in August, about two weeks before Manafort resigned amid questions about his work in Ukraine.

The August meeting is the one the two men arranged during the emails now under examination by investigators.

That encounter took place at the Grand Havana Club, an upscale cigar bar in Manhattan. Kilimnik has said the two discussed “unpaid bills” and “current news.” But he said the sessions were “private visits” that were “in no way related to politics or the presidential campaign in the U.S.”

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Boy Scouts (White Idiots) Ban Squirt-Gun Fights as Part of National Pussification Campaign

http://www.renegadetribune.com/boy-scouts-ban-squirt-gun-fights-part-national-pussification-campaign/
By Russ Winter

A fitting sequel to my “Andrew Jackson RIP” post and end-of-America-as-we-know-it rants comes a story about how the Boy Scouts of America has banned squirt-gun fights. They have also regulated the size of water balloons.

If you are young, forgive an old timer who is hearkening back to a forgotten era. Back in the day, before the pussification campaigns, the cartoons I watched were more pure entertainment, like Bugs Bunny. In a typical episode, Elmer Fudd would hunt Bugs in order to turn him into rabbit soup. Bugs would continuously escape Elmer by outsmarting him.

Yes, there was “violence,” but somehow we knew that we were not really supposed to give people exploding cigars. And, yes, I confessed to being influenced by all this to point of occasionally taking my BB gun and making less-than-serious attempts to hit birds. Honestly though, once when I went deer hunting with my cousins, I was appalled at the slaughter. I did eat the deer, however.

If there was a “lesson” in these old-school cartoons, it was that there were bad people in the world and that you couldn’t reason with them. You could only use your wits to stay one step ahead of them.

Take it like a man

I shouldn’t even mention dodge ball in today’s world. Frankly, I was devastating to my opponents. They would tremble in fear, and I showed no mercy.

I really hesitated to look, but sure enough the nannies have managed to widely ban this fine sport in schools as well, effectively labeling it as “bullying.” Tag is gone, too, as it eliminates slow kids quickly. Yes, I was fast as well back in the day. Nearly all the games I grew up playing and excelling at are gone, as you will see in this video run down.

The fact that my own son was skilled in the art of snowball fighting was a source of great pride for me. In a truly memorable father-and-son moment and after having been plastered upside the face, I actually had him give me instructions on proper technique. At age 40, I learned how to correctly throw baseballs from him and became quite the ticket on softball teams. Those are the moments you can’t get back.

I remember playing musical chairs as a kid. That was real survival of the fittest and strongest. Yes, I must admit feeling bad (well, not really) about knocking some little girl on her ass as I maneuvered for a seat. Even so, I instinctively knew where to draw the line. If Sally had the bead on it, I graciously let her have the chair. There is a fine line between being a gentleman and a submissive pussy.

Nowadays, I understand musical chairs is non-competitive. As I reflect back on my childhood in the late 1950s and early ’60s, I can admit to being quirky, as I still am now. But I was also athletic, engaging, confident, well-liked and had enough of a moral compass not to get into too much trouble. In fact, competing and losing graciously was part of my code. I had good parents from the old school.  In fact not winning was part of growing up and learning about the real world.

My research has revealed that name calling and calling things out are really frowned upon in today’s Brave New World. I had to research it because I don’t seek these people out socially for interaction. That would be double trouble for me, as in a weak moment with these “teachers” I might call someone a ninnie or a pussy.

I think if I were a child today, I would be unpopular, miserable, very rebellious and feeling abused. It would be the inverse in my childhood. My world has been flipped on its side: For males, competing has been replaced with gaming. Testosterone is out, estrogen is in. While as before I went to the principal’s office once, today I can only imagine how bad it would be given all the feminists and reverse racists. I certainly wouldn’t have complied with squirt-gun restrictions. In fact if subjected to this day in, day out, I sense I might resort to this reaction.

I feel very sad for straight old-values boys like me. I would not want to be a father to kids in America today. And even as an older adult, I fear that New World Order fun camps awaits the likes of me. The word is thatanal hazing is the latest craze among the youth. I will take dodge ball.


This article originally appeared on The New Nationalist and was republished with permission.

SHELDON ADELSON DISAVOWS CAMPAIGN TARRING H.R. MCMASTER AS ANTI-ISRAEL

Sheldon Adelson disavowed a campaign by a right-wing Jewish group he funds alleging that National Security Adviser H.R. McMaster is anti-Israel.

Adelson, a billionaire pro-Israel philanthropist, had no role in the Zionist Organization of America’s campaign and no qualms with McMaster, his representative told the Axios news website Monday.

“Sheldon Adelson has nothing to do with the ZOA campaign against McMaster. Had no knowledge of it. And has provided zero support, and is perfectly comfortable with the role that McMaster is playing,” Andy Abboud said.

Axios reported that Abboud called back after making the first comment to clarify that it was not intended to suggest Adelson, a major giver to Republican candidates, including Trump, supports McMaster. The report paraphrased his message as “Adelson doesn’t know McMaster and hasn’t developed an opinion about him. Adelson doesn’t want his intervention to be interpreted as a political endorsement but rather that he has had nothing to do with, and doesn’t support, the campaign against McMaster.”

The Zionist Organization of America, one of the few Jewish organizations to consistently defend President Donald Trump, issued a report last Thursday criticizing McMaster and calling for him to be removed from his position. The ZOA said McMaster is undermining Trump’s Middle East agenda and the US-Israel relationship by firing officials supportive of the Jewish state and critical of the Iran nuclear deal, like Ezra Cohen-Watnick, the hawkish former senior director for intelligence on the National Security Council.

The ZOA continued its attacks on McMaster Tuesday, noting in a release that he had won support from the Council on American-Islamic Relations, the left-wing Media Matters watchdog group and former Obama administration official Van Jones, all of whom ZOA characterized as “anti-Israel.”

The ZOA’s sustained campaign against McMaster comes amid a barrage of criticism of McMaster from Trump’s far-right supporters. Many of the attacks were published on the far-right Breitbart News website, which was formerly run by White House chief strategist Stephen Bannon. One recent headline said McMaster was “deeply hostile to Israel and to Trump.”

On Monday, ZOA President Morton Klein, who has often praised Bannon, issued a news release saying that U.S. Ambassador to Israel David Friedman has called and written him in an attempt to change his mind about McMaster — as well as Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, whose resignation Klein has also called for. According to Klein, Friedman said ZOA “was mistaken in its recent call for the resignation or reassignment of two people with whom I work closely, Secretary Tillerson and General McMaster.”

McMaster’s defenders also include Sen. John McCain, R-Arizona, who issued a statement calling the “the so-called ‘alt-right’” movement’s attacks on the national security adviser “disgraceful.”

Republican Shadow Campaign for 2020 Takes Shape as Trump Doubts Grow

WASHINGTON — Senators Tom Cotton and Ben Sasse have already been to Iowa this year, Gov. John Kasich is eyeing a return visit to New Hampshire, and Mike Pence’s schedule is so full of political events that Republicans joke that he is acting more like a second-term vice president hoping to clear the field than a No. 2 sworn in a little over six months ago.

President Trump’s first term is ostensibly just warming up, but luminaries in his own party have begun what amounts to a shadow campaign for 2020 — as if the current occupant of 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue weren’t involved.

The would-be candidates are cultivating some of the party’s most prominent donors, courting conservative interest groups and carefully enhancing their profiles. Mr. Trump has given no indication that he will decline to seek a second term.

But the sheer disarray surrounding this presidency— the intensifying investigation by the special counsel Robert S. Mueller III and the plain uncertainty about what Mr. Trump will do in the next week, let alone in the next election—have prompted Republican officeholders to take political steps unheard-of so soon into a new administration.

Asked about those Republicans who seem to be eyeing 2020, a White House spokeswoman, Lindsay Walters, fired a warning shot: “The president is as strong as he’s ever been in Iowa, and every potentially ambitious Republican knows that.”

But in interviews with more than 75 Republicans at every level of the party, elected officials, donors and strategists expressed widespread uncertainty about whether Mr. Trump would be on the ballot in 2020 and little doubt that others in the party are engaged in barely veiled contingency planning.

“They see weakness in this president,” said Senator John McCain, Republican of Arizona. “Look, it’s not a nice business we’re in.”

Mr. Trump changed the rules of intraparty politics last year when he took down some of the leading lights of the Republican Party to seize the nomination. Now a handful of hopefuls are quietly discarding traditions that would have dictated, for instance, the respectful abstention from speaking at Republican dinners in the states that kick off the presidential nomination process.

In most cases, the shadow candidates and their operatives have signaled that they are preparing only in case Mr. Trump is not available in 2020. Most significant, multiple advisers to Mr. Pence have already intimated to party donors that he would plan to run if Mr. Trump did not.

Mr. Kasich has been more defiant: The Ohio governor, who ran unsuccessfully in 2016, has declined to rule out a 2020 campaign in multiple television interviews, and has indicated to associates that he may run again, even if Mr. Trump seeks another term.

Mr. Kasich, who was a sharp critic of the Republicans’ failed attempt to repeal the Affordable Care Act with deep Medicaid cuts, intends to step up his advocacy by convening a series of policy forums, in Ohio and around the country.

Gov. John Kasich of Ohio has declined to rule out a 2020 campaign in multiple television interviews.CreditMark Wilson/Getty Images

“He’ll continue to speak out and lead on health care and on national security issues, trade policy, economic expansion and poverty,” John Weaver, a political adviser of Mr. Kasich’s, said.

In the wider world of conservative Trump opponents, William Kristol, editor at large of The Weekly Standard, said he had begun informal conversations about creating a “Committee Not to Renominate the President.”

“We need to take one shot at liberating the Republican Party from Trump, and conservatism from Trumpism,” Mr. Kristol said.

It may get worse, said Jay Bergman, an Illinois petroleum executive and a leading Republican donor. Grievous setbacks in the midterm elections of 2018 could bolster challengers in the party.

“If the Republicans have lost a lot of seats in the Congress and they blame Trump for it, then there are going to be people who emerge who are political opportunists,” Mr. Bergman said.

Mr. Pence has been the pacesetter. Though it is customary for vice presidents to keep a full political calendar, he has gone a step further, creating an independent power base, cementing his status as Mr. Trump’s heir apparent and promoting himself as the main conduit between the Republican donor class and the administration.

The vice president created his own political fund-raising committee, Great America Committee, shrugging off warnings from some high-profile Republicans that it would create speculation about his intentions. The group, set up with help from Jack Oliver, a former fund-raiser for George W. Bush, has overshadowed Mr. Trump’s own primary outside political group, America First Action, even raising more in disclosed donations.

PENCE’S BUSY SCHEDULE

Here are a few of the political events that Vice President Mike Pence has attended:

  • Party-affiliated events:

    He has been the keynote speaker for at least eight Republican events since February.

  • Outside groups:

    He has attended at least eight events since February for politically active groups, including his own group, the Great American PAC.

  • Donor cultivation:

    He was the driving presence behind at least four events in June and July, and hosted private gatherings at his residence earlier this year.

Mr. Pence also installed Nick Ayers, a sharp-elbowed political operative, as his new chief of staff last month — a striking departure from vice presidents’ long history of elevating a government veteran to be their top staff member. Mr. Ayers had worked on many campaigns but never in the federal government.

Some in the party’s establishment wing are remarkably open about their wish that Mr. Pence would be the Republican standard-bearer in 2020, Representative Charlie Dent of Pennsylvania said.

“For some, it is for ideological reasons, and for others it is for stylistic reasons,” Mr. Dent said, complaining of the “exhausting” amount of “instability, chaos and dysfunction” surrounding Mr. Trump.

Mr. Pence has made no overt efforts to separate himself from the beleaguered president. He has kept up his relentless public praise and even in private is careful to bow to the president.

Mr. Pence’s aides, however, have been less restrained in private, according to two people briefed on the conversations. In a June meeting with Al Hubbard, an Indiana Republican who was a top economic official in Mr. Bush’s White House, an aide to the vice president, Marty Obst, said that they wanted to be prepared to run in case there was an opening in 2020 and that Mr. Pence would need Mr. Hubbard’s help, according to a Republican briefed on the meeting. Reached on the phone, Mr. Hubbard declined to comment.

Mr. Ayers has signaled to multiple major Republican donors that Mr. Pence wants to be ready.

Mr. Obst denied that he and Mr. Ayers had made any private insinuations and called suggestions that the vice president wass positioning himself for 2020 “beyond ridiculous.”

For his part, Mr. Pence is methodically establishing his own identity and bestowing personal touches on people who could pay dividends in the future. He not only spoke in June at one of the most important yearly events for Iowa Republicans, Senator Joni Ernst’s pig roast, but he also held a separate, more intimate gathering for donors afterward.

When he arrived in Des Moines on Air Force Two, Mr. Pence was greeted by an Iowan who had complained about his experience with the Affordable Care Act — and who happened to be a member of the state Republican central committee.

The vice president has also turned his residence at the Naval Observatory into a hub for relationship building. In June, he opened the mansion to social conservative activists like Tony Perkins of the Family Research Council and representatives of the billionaire kingmakers Charles G. and David H. Koch.

At large gatherings for contributors, Mr. Pence keeps a chair free at each table so he can work his way around the room. At smaller events for some of the party’s biggest donors, he lays on the charm. Last month, Mr. Pence hosted the Kentucky coal barons Kelly and Joe Craft, along with the University of Kentucky men’s basketball coach, John Calipari, for a dinner a few hours after Ms. Craft appeared before the Senate for her hearing as nominee to become ambassador to Canada.

Other Republicans eyeing the White House have taken note.

“They see him moving around, having big donors at the house for dinner,” said Charles R. Black Jr., a veteran of Republican presidential politics. “And they’ve got to try to keep up.”

Mr. Cotton, for example, is planning a two-day, $5,000-per-person fund-raiser in New York next month, ostensibly for Senate Republicans (and his own eventual re-election campaign). The gathering will include a dinner and a series of events at the Harvard Club, featuring figures well known in hawkish foreign policy circles such as Stephen Hadley, Mr. Bush’s national security adviser.

Mr. Cotton, 40, a first-term Arkansas senator, made headlines for going to Iowa last year during the campaign. He was back just after the election for a birthday party in Des Moines for former Gov. Terry E. Branstad and returned in May to give the keynote speech at a county Republican dinner in Council Bluffs.

Mr. Sasse, among the sharpest Senate Republican critics of Mr. Trump, has quietly introduced himself to political donors in language that several Republicans have found highly suggestive, describing himself as an independent-minded conservative who happens to caucus with Republicans in the Senate. Advisers to Mr. Sasse, of Nebraska, have discussed creating an advocacy group to help promote his agenda nationally.

Senator Ben Sasse of Nebraska has been among the sharpest Senate Republican critics of Mr. Trump.CreditTom Williams/CQ Roll Call

He held a private meet-and-greet last month with local Republican leaders in Iowa, where he lamented the plodding pace of Capitol Hill and declined to recant his past criticism of Mr. Trump.

Jennifer Horn, a former chairwoman of the New Hampshire Republican Party who hosted Mr. Sasse in the first primary state last year, said she saw the senator as speaking for conservatives who felt that Republicans in Washington had not been delivering on their promises.

“There are a lot of people in New Hampshire who have developed a lot of respect for him, and I’m one of them,” she said.

James Wegmann, a spokesman for Mr. Sasse, said the only future date that Mr. Sasse had in mind was Nov. 24, 2017, when the University of Iowa meets the University of Nebraska on the football field.

“Huskers-Hawkeyes rematch,” Mr. Wegmann said, “and like every Nebraskan, he’s betting on the side of righteousness.”

Beyond Washington, other up-and-coming Republicans are making moves should there be an opening in 2020. Nikki Haley, the ambassador to the United Nations and a former governor of South Carolina, put her longtime pollster on the payroll, has gotten better acquainted with some of New York’s financiers and carved out a far more muscular foreign policy niche than Mr. Trump.

“She sounds more like me than Trump,” said Senator Lindsey Graham, a hawkish Republican from South Carolina.

Russia used Facebook to try to spy on Macron campaign – sources

SAN FRANCISCO (Reuters) – Russian intelligence agents attempted to spy on President Emmanuel Macron’s election campaign earlier this year by creating phony Facebook personas, according to a U.S. congressman and two other people briefed on the effort.

About two dozen Facebook accounts were created to conduct surveillance on Macron campaign officials and others close to the centrist former financier as he sought to defeat far-right nationalist Marine Le Pen and other opponents in the two-round election, the sources said. Macron won in a landslide in May.

Facebook said in April it had taken action against fake accounts that were spreading misinformation about the French election. But the effort to infiltrate the social networks of Macron officials has not previously been reported.

Russia has repeatedly denied interfering in the French election by hacking and leaking emails and documents. U.S. intelligence agencies told Reuters in May that hackers with connections to the Russian government were involved, but they did not have conclusive evidence that the Kremlin ordered the hacking.

Facebook confirmed to Reuters that it had detected spying accounts in France and deactivated them. It credited a combination of improved automated detection and stepped-up human efforts to find sophisticated attacks.

Company officials briefed congressional committee members and staff, among others, about their findings. People involved in the conversations also said the number of Facebook accounts suspended in France for promoting propaganda or spam – much of it related to the election – had climbed to 70,000, a big jump from the 30,000 account closures the company disclosed in April.

Facebook did not dispute the figure.

Seeking Friends of Friends

The spying campaign included Russian agents posing as friends of friends of Macron associates and trying to glean personal information from them, according to the U.S. congressman and two others briefed on the matter.

Facebook employees noticed the efforts during the first round of the presidential election and traced them to tools used in the past by Russia’s GRU military intelligence unit, said the people, who spoke on condition they not be named because they were discussing sensitive government and private intelligence.

FILE PHOTO – French President Emmanuel Macron leaves the polling station after voting in the first of two rounds of parliamentary elections in Le Touquet, France, June 11, 2017.Christophe Petit Tesson/Pool

Facebook told American officials that it did not believe the spies burrowed deep enough to get the targets to download malicious software or give away their login information, which they believe may have been the goal of the operation.

The same GRU unit, dubbed Fancy Bear or APT 28 in the cybersecurity industry, has been blamed for hacking the Democratic National Committee during the 2016 U.S. presidential election and many other political targets. The GRU did not respond to a request for comment.

Email accounts belonging to Macron campaign officials were hacked and their contents dumped online in the final days of the runoff between Macron and Le Pen.

French law enforcement and intelligence officials have not publicly accused anyone of the campaign attacks.

Mounir Mahjoubi, who was digital director of Macron’s political movement, En Marche, and is now a junior minister for digital issues in his government, told Reuters in May that some security experts blamed the GRU specifically, though they had no proof.

Mahjoubi and En Marche declined to comment.

There are few publicly known examples of sophisticated social media spying efforts. In 2015, Britain’s domestic security service, MI5, warned that hostile powers were using LinkedIn to connect with and try to recruit government workers.

The social media and networking companies themselves rarely comment on such operations when discovered.

Facebook, facing mounting pressure from governments around the world to control “fake news’ and propaganda on the service, took a step toward openness with a report in April on what it termed “information operations.”

The bulk of that document discussed so-called influence operations, which included “amplifier” accounts that spread links to slanted or false news stories in order to influence public opinion.

Soros ‘distressed’ by ‘anti-Semitic’ Hungary campaign

BUDAPEST, Hungary — US billionaire George Soros hit back Tuesday at a Hungarian government anti-immigration poster and media campaign that he said uses “anti-Semitic” imagery.

“I am distressed by the current Hungarian regime’s use of anti-Semitic imagery as part of its deliberate disinformation campaign,” the 86-year-old said in a rare statement.

The posters show a large picture of the Hungarian-born Jewish emigre laughing, alongside the text: “Let’s not let Soros have the last laugh,” a reference to government claims that Soros wants to force Hungary to allow in migrants.

Since the posters appeared on billboards and at public spaces around the country last week, as well as on television, several incidents of anti-Semitic graffiti such as “Stinking Jew” or Stars of David daubed on them have been reported.

A poster with US billionaire George Soros is pictured on July 6, 2017 in Szekesfehervar, Hungary. (AFP PHOTO / ATTILA KISBENEDEK)

Hungary’s largest Jewish organisation, Mazsihisz, has called on Prime Minister Viktor Orban to stop the campaign, with its head Andras Heisler writing to the prime minister that the “poisonous messages harm the whole of Hungary.”

Some opposition activists and citizens have also begun taking down some of the posters from billboards.

Soros said he was “heartened that together with countless fellow citizens the leadership of the Hungarian Jewish community” have spoken out.

Earlier Tuesday his spokesperson Michael Vachon called the campaign “reminiscent of Europe’s darkest hours” with “clearly anti-Semitic overtones.”

Those defacing the posters with graffiti “(understood) the government’s intent,” he said.

“The government has consistently and willfully misrepresented Soros’s views on migration and refugees,” he added.

On Friday Orban accused Soros of being a “billionaire speculator” who wanted to use his wealth and civil groups that he supports to “settle a million migrants” in the European Union.

Orban and government officials say that Hungary has a policy of “zero tolerance” of anti-Semitism, and that the poster campaign is about increasing awareness of the “national security risk” posed by Soros.

On Saturday, Israel’s ambassador in Budapest Yossi Amrani also criticized the poster campaign, saying it “evokes sad memories but also sows hatred and fear.”

Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban arrives for an European Union leaders summit, on June 22, 2017, at the European Council in Brussels. (JULIEN WARNAND / POOL / AFP)

But late Sunday — reportedly at the request of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s office — Israel’s foreign ministry issued a separate “clarification” that criticism of Soros was legitimate.

“Israel deplores any expression of anti-Semitism in any country and stands with Jewish communities everywhere in confronting this hatred,” said Foreign Ministry spokesman Emmanuel Nahshon in a statement. “This was the sole purpose of the statement issued by Israel’s ambassador to Hungary.

“In no way was the statement meant to de-legitimize criticism of George Soros, who continuously undermines Israel’s democratically elected governments by funding organizations that defame the Jewish state and seek to deny it the right to defend itself,” Nahshon added.

Netanyahu is due to visit Hungary next week, the first visit by an Israeli prime minister since the end of communism in 1989.

Hungary to pull ‘anti-Semitic’ Soros campaign ahead of Netanyahu visit

The Hungarian government said Wednesday it will end a billboard campaign against Jewish billionaire and philanthropist George Soros deemed “anti-Semitic,” three days before before Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is scheduled to visit the country.

The posters show a large picture of the Hungarian-born Jewish emigre laughing, alongside the text: “Let’s not let Soros have the last laugh,” a reference to government claims that Soros wants to force Hungary to allow in migrants.

Leaders of Hungary’s 100,000-strong Jewish community have said the campaign is provoking anti-Semitism.

Since the posters appeared on billboards and at public spaces around the country last week, as well as on television, several incidents of anti-Semitic graffiti such as “Stinking Jew” and Stars of David daubed on them have been reported.

On Tuesday, Soros released a rare statement saying he was “distressed by the current Hungarian regime’s use of anti-Semitic imagery as part of its deliberate disinformation campaign.”

In a statement the government said that the anti-Soros campaign had reached its goals and was no longer necessary, according to Hungarian news outlets. The statement noted that a new law regulating the display of political posters in public places was due to come into effect on July 15.

Hungarian television network ATV cited Wednesday a leading member of the Orban’s ruling Fidesz party as saying Netanyahu’s upcoming visit prompted the move as well as preparations for an international water polo tournament scheduled to start on Thursday.

Netanyahu will meet with Hungarian Prime Minister is Viktor Orban in the capital Budapest in what will be the first visit by an Israeli prime minister since the end of communism in 1989.

Israel’s ambassador to Hungary slammed the campaign over the weekend for “sowing hatred” and suggested it evokes memories of the Holocaust.

However, on Sunday the Foreign Ministry clarified that while it condemns bigotry against Jews, it was not defending Soros, who it described as defaming Israel and undermining its right to defend itself.

Hungarian Pime Minister Viktor Orban gives a joint press conference in Budapest on July 4, 2017 during a summit of the Visegrad group countries and Egypt. (AFP Photo/Attila Kisbenedek)

“Israel deplores any expression of anti-Semitism in any country and stands with Jewish communities everywhere in confronting this hatred,” Foreign Ministry spokesman Emmanuel Nahshon said in the statement. “This was the sole purpose of the statement issued by Israel’s ambassador to Hungary.

“In no way was the statement meant to delegitimize criticism of George Soros, who continuously undermines Israel’s democratically elected governments by funding organizations that defame the Jewish state and seek to deny it the right to defend itself,” Nahshon added.

According to Israeli daily Haaretz, the walk-back came at the behest of Netanyahu.

Orban and government officials say that Hungary has a policy of “zero tolerance” of anti-Semitism, and that the poster campaign is about increasing awareness of the “national security risk” posed by Soros.

On Friday Orban accused Soros of being a “billionaire speculator” who wanted to use his wealth and civil groups that he supports to “settle a million migrants” in the European Union.

Raphael Ahren contributed to this report.

SOROS COMPARES HUNGARIAN CAMPAIGN AGAINST HIM TO NAZI PROPAGANDA

 

Jewish American billionaire George Soros said the current Hungarian government campaign against him evokes “Europe’s darkest hours,” referring to Nazi German propaganda.

“I am distressed by the current Hungarian regime’s use of antisemitic imagery as part of its deliberate disinformation campaign,” Soros said in a statement issued in his name on Tuesday, according to reports.

 

The government of Prime Minister Viktor Orban has paid for a nationwide campaign vilifying Soros over his support for efforts to allow migrants to enter the country. Jewish leaders there say the campaign against Soros has stoked antisemitic sentiment in the country.

Billboards posted nationwide show a grinning Soros, who was born in Hungary, and the words “Let’s not allow Soros to have the last laugh.” Many of the billboards have been defaced with antisemitic graffiti.

Soros has said that the government is misrepresenting his views on immigration ahead of the 2018 elections.

“As a survivor of the Holocaust who hid from the Nazis in Budapest and later was himself a refugee, Soros knows first-hand what it means to be in mortal peril,” said the statement issued on his behalf. “He carries the memory of the international community’s rejection of Jewish refugees fleeing the Nazis. … It is from the crucible of those experiences that his empathy for refugees from war-torn Syria and elsewhere was born.”

“Soros’s position is entirely consistent with mainstream European values. The claim that Soros is promoting a scheme to import a million illegal immigrants into Europe is Victor Orban’s fantasy,” the statement also said.

Hungarian Jews and Israeli lawmakers have called on Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to cancel an official visit to Hungary scheduled for July 18, to protest the campaign against Soros and remarks by Orban in praise of Hungary’s World War II-era antisemitic leader Miklós Horthy.

It would be the first visit by an Israeli prime minister since Hungary disavowed Communism in 1989.

Israel’s ambassador to Hungary on Sunday issued a statement denouncing the Hungarian government’s campaign against Soros. Israel’s Foreign Ministry later released a clarification saying that the statement was meant to address the resulting antisemitism, not defend Soros, who, it said, “continuously undermines Israel’s democratically elected governments by funding organizations that defame the Jewish state and seek to deny it the right to defend itself.”

Soros is frequently vilified by European right-wing politicians for his support of pro-democracy efforts through his Open Society Foundations, and by pro-Israel activists for his support of Palestinian and Israeli human rights groups consistently critical of Israeli policies.

Trump Jr. Was Told in Email of Russian Effort to Aid Campaign

WASHINGTON — Before arranging a meeting with a Kremlin-connected Russian lawyer he believed would offer him compromising information about Hillary Clinton, Donald Trump Jr. was informed in an email that the material was part of a Russian government effort to aid his father’s candidacy, according to three people with knowledge of the email.

The email to the younger Mr. Trump was sent by Rob Goldstone, a publicist and former British tabloid reporter who helped broker the June 2016 meeting. In a statement on Sunday, Mr. Trump acknowledged that he was interested in receiving damaging information about Mrs. Clinton, but gave no indication that he thought the lawyer might have been a Kremlin proxy.

Mr. Goldstone’s message, as described to The New York Times by the three people, indicates that the Russian government was the source of the potentially damaging information. It does not elaborate on the wider effort by Moscow to help the Trump campaign.

There is no evidence to suggest that the promised damaging information was related to Russian government computer hacking that led to the release of thousands of Democratic National Committee emails. The meeting took place less than a week before it was widely reported that Russian hackers had infiltrated the committee’s servers.

But the email is likely to be of keen interest to the Justice Department and congressional investigators, who are examining whether any of President Trump’s associates colluded with the Russian government to disrupt last year’s election. American intelligence agencies have determined that the Russian government tried to sway the election in favor of Mr. Trump.

The Times first reported on the existence of the meeting on Saturday, and a fuller picture has emerged in subsequent days.

Alan Futerfas, the lawyer for the younger Mr. Trump, said his client had done nothing wrong but pledged to work with investigators if contacted.

“In my view, this is much ado about nothing. During this busy period, Robert Goldstone contacted Don Jr. in an email and suggested that people had information concerning alleged wrongdoing by Democratic Party front-runner, Hillary Clinton, in her dealings with Russia,” he told The Times in an email on Monday. “Don Jr.’s takeaway from this communication was that someone had information potentially helpful to the campaign and it was coming from someone he knew. Don Jr. had no knowledge as to what specific information, if any, would be discussed.”

It is unclear whether Mr. Goldstone had direct knowledge of the origin of the damaging material. One person who was briefed on the emails said it appeared that he was passing along information that had been passed through several others.

Jared Kushner, Mr. Trump’s son-in-law, and Paul J. Manafort, the campaign chairman at the time, also attended the June 2016 meeting in New York. Representatives for Mr. Kushner referred requests for comments back to an earlier statement, which said he had voluntarily disclosed the meeting to the federal government. He has deferred questions on the content of the meeting to Donald Trump Jr.

A spokesman for Mr. Manafort declined to comment.

But at the White House, the deputy press secretary, Sarah Huckabee Sanders, was adamant from the briefing room lectern that “the president’s campaign did not collude in any way. Don Jr. did not collude with anybody to influence the election. No one within the Trump campaign colluded in order to influence the election.”

The president, a prolific Twitter user, did not address his son’s controversy on Monday, and instead sought to highlight other issues throughout the morning.

In a series of tweets, the president’s son insisted he had done what anyone connected to a political campaign would have done — hear out potentially damaging information about an opponent. He maintained that his various statements about the meeting were not in conflict.

“Obviously I’m the first person on a campaign to ever take a meeting to hear info about an opponent… went nowhere but had to listen,” he wrote in one tweet. In another, he added, “No inconsistency in statements, meeting ended up being primarily about adoptions. In response to further Q’s I simply provided more details.”

The younger Mr. Trump, who had a reputation during the campaign for having meetings with a wide range of people eager to speak to him, did not join his father’s administration. He runs the family business, the Trump Organization, with his brother Eric.

On Monday, after news reports that he had hired a lawyer, he indicated in a tweet that he would be open to speaking to the Senate Intelligence Committee, one of the congressional panels investigating Russian meddling in the election. “Happy to work with the committee to pass on what I know,” the younger Mr. Trump wrote.

Mr. Goldstone represents the Russian pop star Emin Agalarov, whose father was President Trump’s business partner in bringing the Miss Universe pageant to Moscow in 2013. In an interview Monday, Mr. Goldstone said he was asked by Mr. Agalarov to set up the meeting with Donald Trump Jr. and the Russian lawyer, Natalia Veselnitskaya.

“He said, ‘I’m told she has information about illegal campaign contributions to the D.N.C.,’” Mr. Goldstone recalled, referring to the Democratic National Committee. He said he then emailed Donald Trump Jr., outlining what the lawyer purported to have.

But Mr. Goldstone, who wrote the email over a year ago, denied any knowledge of involvement by the Russian government in the matter, saying that never dawned on him. “Never, never ever,” he said. Later, after the email was described to The Times, efforts to reach him for further comment were unsuccessful.

In the interview, he said it was his understanding that Ms. Veselnitskaya was simply a “private citizen” for whom Mr. Agalarov wanted to do a favor. He also said he did not know whether Mr. Agalarov’s father, Aras Agalarov, a Moscow real estate tycoon known to be close to President Vladimir V. Putin of Russia, was involved. The elder Mr. Agalarov and the younger Mr. Trump worked together to bring a Trump Tower to Moscow, but the project never got off the ground.

Emin Agalarov, right, spoke alongside Donald J. Trump and Erin Brady, Miss USA, in Las Vegas in 2013.CreditEthan Miller/Getty Images

Mr. Goldstone also said his recollection of the meeting largely tracked with the account given by the president’s son, as outlined in the Sunday statement Mr. Trump issued in response to a Times article on the June 2016 meeting. Mr. Goldstone said the last time he had communicated with the younger Mr. Trump was to send him a congratulatory text after the November election, but he added that he did speak to the Trump Organization over the past weekend, before giving his account to the news media.

Donald Trump Jr., who initially told The Times that Ms. Veselnitskaya wanted to talk about the resumption of adoption of Russian children by American families, acknowledged in the Sunday statement that one subject of the meeting was possibly compromising information about Mrs. Clinton. His decision to move ahead with such a meeting was unusual for a political campaign, but it was consistent with the haphazard approach the Trump operation, and the White House, have taken in vetting people they deal with ahead of time.

But he said that the Russian lawyer produced nothing of consequence, and that the meeting ended after she began talking about the Magnitsky Act — an American law that blacklists Russians suspected of human rights abuses. The 2012 law so enraged Mr. Putin that he halted American adoptions of Russian children.

Mr. Goldstone said Ms. Veselnitskaya offered “just a vague, generic statement about the campaign’s funding and how people, including Russian people, living all over the world donate when they shouldn’t donate” before turning to her anti-Magnitsky Act arguments.

“It was the most inane nonsense I’ve ever heard,” he said. “And I was actually feeling agitated by it. Had I, you know, actually taken up what is a huge amount of their busy time with this nonsense?”

Ms. Veselnitskaya, for her part, denied that the campaign or compromising material about Mrs. Clinton ever came up. She said she had never acted on behalf of the Russian government. A representative for Mr. Putin said on Monday that he did not know Ms. Veselnitskaya, and that he had no knowledge of the June 2016 meeting.

Ms. Sanders said at a news briefing that the American president had learned of the meeting recently, but she declined to discuss details.

The White House press office, however, accused Mrs. Clinton’s team of hypocrisy. The office circulated a January 2017 article published in Politico, detailing how officials from the Ukrainian government tried to help the Democratic candidate conduct opposition research on Mr. Trump and some of his aides.

News of the meeting involving the younger Mr. Trump, Mr. Kushner and Mr. Manafort blunted whatever good feeling the president’s team had after his trip to Europe for the Group of 20 economic summit meeting.

The president learned from his aides about the 2016 meeting at the end of the trip, according to a White House official. But some people in the White House had known for several days that it had occurred, because Mr. Kushner had revised his foreign contact disclosure document to include it.

The president was frustrated by the news of the meeting, according to a person close to him — less over the fact that it had happened, and more because it was yet another story about Russia that had swamped the news cycle.

Trump Team Met With Lawyer Linked to Kremlin During Campaign

Two weeks after Donald J. Trump clinched the Republican presidential nomination last year, his eldest son arranged a meeting at Trump Tower in Manhattan with a Russian lawyer who has connections to the Kremlin, according to confidential government records described to The New York Times.

The previously unreported meeting was also attended by Mr. Trump’s campaign chairman at the time, Paul J. Manafort, as well as the president’s son-in-law, Jared Kushner, according to interviews and the documents, which were outlined by people familiar with them.

While President Trump has been dogged by revelations of undisclosed meetings between his associates and Russians, this episode at Trump Tower on June 9, 2016, is the first confirmed private meeting between a Russian national and members of Mr. Trump’s inner circle during the campaign. It is also the first time that his son Donald Trump Jr. is known to have been involved in such a meeting.

Representatives of Donald Trump Jr. and Mr. Kushner confirmed the meeting after The Times approached them with information about it. In a statement, Donald Jr. described the meeting as primarily about an adoption program. The statement did not address whether the presidential campaign was discussed.

American intelligence agencies have concluded that Russian hackers and propagandists worked to tip the election toward Mr. Trump, and a special prosecutor and congressional committees are now investigating whether his campaign associates colluded with Russians. Mr. Trump has disputed that, but the investigation has cast a shadow over his administration for months.

Mr. Trump has also equivocated on whether the Russians were solely responsible for the hacking. But in Germany on Friday, meeting President Vladimir V. Putin for the first time as president, Mr. Trump questioned him about the hacking. The Russian leader denied meddling in the election.

The Russian lawyer invited to the Trump Tower meeting, Natalia Veselnitskaya, is best known for mounting a multipronged attack against the Magnitsky Act, an American law that blacklists suspected Russian human rights abusers. The law so enraged Mr. Putin that he retaliated by halting American adoptions of Russian children.

Natalia Veselnitskaya

The adoption impasse is a frequently used talking point for opponents of the Magnitsky Act. Ms. Veselnitskaya’s campaign against the law has also included attempts to discredit its namesake, Sergei L. Magnitsky, a lawyer and auditor who died in mysterious circumstances in a Russian prison in 2009 after exposing one of the biggest corruption scandals during Mr. Putin’s rule.

Ms. Veselnitskaya was formerly married to a former deputy transportation minister of the Moscow region, and her clients include state-owned businesses and a senior government official’s son, whose company was under investigation in the United States at the time of the meeting. Her activities and associations had previously drawn the attention of the F.B.I., according to a former senior law enforcement official.

In his statement, Donald Trump Jr. said: “It was a short introductory meeting. I asked Jared and Paul to stop by. We primarily discussed a program about the adoption of Russian children that was active and popular with American families years ago and was since ended by the Russian government, but it was not a campaign issue at the time and there was no follow up.”

He added: “I was asked to attend the meeting by an acquaintance, but was not told the name of the person I would be meeting with beforehand.”

Late Saturday, Mark Corallo, a spokesman for the president’s lawyer, issued a statement implying that the meeting was a setup. Ms. Veselnitskaya and the translator who accompanied her to the meeting “misrepresented who they were,” it said.

In an interview, Mr. Corallo explained that Ms. Veselnitskaya, in her anti-Magnitsky campaign, employs a private investigator whose firm, Fusion GPS, produced an intelligence dossier that contained unproven allegationsagainst the president. The firm could not be reached for comment.

Donald Trump Jr. had denied participating in any campaign-related meetings with Russian nationals when he was interviewed by The Times in March. “Did I meet with people that were Russian? I’m sure, I’m sure I did,” he said. “But none that were set up. None that I can think of at the moment. And certainly none that I was representing the campaign in any way, shape or form.”

Asked at that time whether he had ever discussed government policies related to Russia, the younger Mr. Trump replied, “A hundred percent no.”

Paul Manafort at the Republican National Convention last year in Cleveland. CreditEric Thayer for The New York Times

The Trump Tower meeting was not disclosed to government officials until recently, when Mr. Kushner, who is also a senior White House aide, filed a revised version of a form required to obtain a security clearance. The Times reported in April that he had failed to disclose any foreign contacts, including meetings with the Russian ambassador to the United States and the head of a Russian state bank. Failure to report such contacts can result in a loss of access to classified information and even, if information is knowingly falsified or concealed, in imprisonment.

Mr. Kushner’s advisers said at the time that the omissions were an error, and that he had immediately notified the F.B.I. that he would be revising the filing. They also said he had met with the Russians in his official transition capacity as a main point of contact for foreign officials.

In a statement on Saturday, Mr. Kushner’s lawyer, Jamie Gorelick, said: “He has since submitted this information, including that during the campaign and transition, he had over 100 calls or meetings with representatives of more than 20 countries, most of which were during transition. Mr. Kushner has submitted additional updates and included, out of an abundance of caution, this meeting with a Russian person, which he briefly attended at the request of his brother-in-law Donald Trump Jr. As Mr. Kushner has consistently stated, he is eager to cooperate and share what he knows.”

Mr. Kushner’s lawyers addressed questions about his disclosure but deferred to Donald Trump Jr. on questions about the meeting itself.

Mr. Manafort, the former campaign chairman, also recently disclosed the meeting, and Donald Trump Jr.’s role in organizing it, to congressional investigators who had questions about his foreign contacts, according to people familiar with the events.

A spokesman for Mr. Manafort declined to comment. In response to questions, Ms. Veselnitskaya said the meeting lasted about 30 minutes and focused on the Magnitsky Act and the adoption issue.

“Nothing at all was discussed about the presidential campaign,” she said, adding, “I have never acted on behalf of the Russian government and have never discussed any of these matters with any representative of the Russian government.”

Because Donald Trump Jr. does not serve in the administration and does not have a security clearance, he was not required to disclose his foreign contacts. Federal and congressional investigators have not publicly asked for any records that would require his disclosure of Russian contacts. It is not clear whether the Justice Department was aware of the meeting before Mr. Kushner disclosed it recently. Neither Mr. Kushner nor Mr. Manafort was required to disclose the content of the meeting in their government filings.

During the campaign, Donald Trump Jr. served as a close adviser to his father, frequently appearing at campaign events. Since the president took office, the younger Mr. Trump and his brother, who have worked for the Trump Organization for most of their adult lives, assumed day-to-day control of their father’s real estate empire.

A quick internet search reveals Ms. Veselnitskaya as a formidable operator with a history of pushing the Kremlin’s agenda. Most notable is her campaign against the Magnitsky Act, which provoked a Cold War-style, tit-for-tat row with the Kremlin when President Barack Obama signed it into law in 2012.

Under the law, some 44 Russian citizens have been put on a list that allows the United States to seize their American assets and deny them visas. The United States asserts that many of them are connected to fraud exposed by Mr. Magnitsky, who after being jailed for more than a year was found dead in his cell. A Russian human rights panel found that he had been assaulted. To critics of Mr. Putin, Mr. Magnitsky, in death, became a symbol of corruption and brutality in the Russian state.

An infuriated Mr. Putin has called the law an “outrageous act,” and, in addition to banning American adoptions, compiled what became known as an “anti-Magnitsky” blacklist of United States citizens.

Among those blacklisted was Preet Bharara, then the United States attorney in Manhattan, who led high-profile convictions of Russian arms and drug dealers. Mr. Bharara was abruptly fired in March, after previously being asked to stay on by Mr. Trump.

One of Ms. Veselnitskaya’s clients is Denis Katsyv, the Russian owner of a Cyprus-based investment company called Prevezon Holdings. He is the son of Petr Katsyv, the vice president of the state-owned Russian Railways and a former deputy governor of the Moscow region. In a civil forfeiture case prosecuted by Mr. Bharara’s office, the Justice Department alleged that Prevezon had helped launder money tied to a $230 million corruption scheme exposed by Mr. Magnitsky by parking it in New York real estate and bank accounts. As a result, the government froze $14 million of its assets. Prevezon recently settled the case for $6 million without admitting wrongdoing.

Ms. Veselnitskaya and her client hired a team of political and legal operatives that has worked unsuccessfully in Washington to repeal the Magnitsky Act. They also tried but failed to keep Mr. Magnitsky’s name off a new law that takes aim at human-rights abusers across the globe.

Besides the private investigator whose firm produced the Trump dossier, the lobbying team included Rinat Akhmetshin, an émigré to the United States who once served as a Soviet military officer and who has been called a Russian political gun for hire.

Ms. Veselnitskaya was also deeply involved in the making of an anti-Magnitsky film that premiered just weeks before the Trump Tower meeting. Titled “The Magnitsky Act — Behind the Scenes,” the film echoes the Kremlin line that the widely accepted version of Mr. Magnitsky’s life and death is wrong. The film claims that he was not assaulted and alleges that he never testified that government officials conspired to steal $230 million in fraudulent tax rebates.

In the film’s telling, the true culprit of the fraud was William F. Browder, an American-born financier who hired Mr. Magnitsky to investigate the fraud after he had three of his investment funds companies in Russia seized. On RussiaTV5, a station whose owners are known to be close to Mr. Putin, Ms. Veselnitskaya was lauded as “one of those who gave the film crew the real proofs and records of testimony.”

Mr. Browder, who stopped the screening of the film in Europe by threatening libel suits, called the film a state-sponsored smear campaign.

“She’s not just some private lawyer,” Mr. Browder said of Ms. Veselnitskaya. “She is a tool of the Russian government.”

John O. Brennan, the former C.I.A. director, testified in May that he had been concerned last year by Russian government efforts to contact and manipulate members of Mr. Trump’s campaign. “Russian intelligence agencies do not hesitate at all to use private companies and Russian persons who are unaffiliated with the Russian government to support their objectives,” he said.

The F.B.I. began a counterintelligence investigation last July into Russian contacts with any Trump associates. Agents focused on Mr. Manafort and a pair of advisers, Carter Page and Roger J. Stone.

Among those now under investigation is Michael T. Flynn, who was forced to resign as Mr. Trump’s national security adviser after it became known that he had falsely denied speaking to the Russian ambassador about sanctions imposed by the Obama administration over the election hacking.

Congress later discovered that Mr. Flynn had been paid more than $65,000 by companies linked to Russia, and that he had failed to disclose those payments when he renewed his security clearance and underwent an additional background check to join the White House staff.

In May, the president fired the F.B.I. director, James B. Comey, who days later provided information about a meeting with Mr. Trump at the White House. According to Mr. Comey, the president asked him to end the bureau’s investigation into Mr. Flynn; Mr. Trump has repeatedly denied making such a request. Robert S. Mueller III, a former F.B.I. director, was then appointed as special counsel.

The status of Mr. Mueller’s investigation is not clear, but he has assembled a veteran team of prosecutors and agents to dig into any possible collusion.