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Response to Karadeniz (Reply #5)

Sat Nov 9, 2019, 11:20 AM

9. Mueller should have investigated the Alfa Bank angle

Questions Remain About Putin's Request for a Back Channel to the Trump Transition
By Eric Lichtblau | May 21, 2019

A few weeks before Donald Trump became president, Russian banker Petr Aven, a billionaire oligarch with Moscow’s Alfa Bank, pulled aside Washington lobbyist Richard Burt at a corporate meeting in Luxembourg with a sensitive request.

Aven told Burt that “someone high in the Russian government” wanted “a communications channel between the Kremlin and the Trump Transition Team,” according to Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s recently released report. Aven wanted Burt, a former ambassador who had helped Trump’s campaign, to work on setting it up.

Burt later told Mueller’s team that the request was, in the words of the report, “outside the normal realm,” even for Burt, a well-traveled Washington insider who had worked with Aven for years. It looks even more remarkable now.

The “high” Russian official was none other than President Vladimir Putin, Mueller’s team would later learn. Amid what Mueller called a “flurry of Russian activity” during the Trump transition, the Aven outreach is the only publicly known instance in which Putin, a onetime KGB spy, was personally involved in directing Russia’s clandestine efforts with the incoming administration.

The surreptitious contacts involving Putin, Aven and Burt as described in the Mueller report contradict repeated assertions by Alfa Bank that it had no contacts with Trump or people around him. At the time of Trump’s election, Alfa Bank was at the center of a mystery over an unexplained surge in computer traffic from Moscow to the Trump Organization in the midst of the 2016 presidential campaign. Computer analysts concluded that Alfa Bank had developed a covert communications channel to the Trump Organization.

Mueller did not address the cyber-traffic one way or the other in his report. That has left some Democrats on Capitol Hill unsatisfied. “Even in the wake of the Mueller report, we don’t know the meaning of the 2016 communications between Alfa Bank and Trump Organization servers, nor do we even know whether the FBI has fully investigated those links,” says Rhode Island Democratic Senator Sheldon Whitehouse, a member of the Judiciary Committee.

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