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Seth Abramson @SethAbramson
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(THREAD) There is increasing evidence the June 2016 Trump Tower meeting *did* produce the Clinton materials Trump was hoping for—just not on the timeframe he wanted. The Michael Flynn-Peter Smith axis points toward a whole summer of Trump collusion. Hope you'll read on and share.
1/ During the same 7-day period Trump allegedly held a pre-Trump Tower meeting planning session, announced he'd be giving a "Clinton dirt" speech, and the meeting itself occurred, Russian intelligence launched *both* its primary hacked-materials outlets: DCLeaks and Guccifer 2.0.
2/ The timeline astounds:

6/7: Trump Tower meeting planning session.
6/7: Trump announces upcoming "Clinton dirt" speech.
6/8: Russia launches DCLeaks.
6/9: Trump-Russia meeting at Trump Tower.
6/13: Trump slated to give "Clinton dirt" speech.
6/14: Russia launches Guccifer 2.0.
3/ But there are many open questions: (1) Giuliani says there were "two other people" in on the planning session, but they're not named; (2) Team Trump claims absolutely nothing came from the Trump Tower meeting, which would be a very poor way for the Kremlin to treat with Trump.
4/ Putin says he wanted Trump to win; Goldstone told Don Jr. Putin wanted Trump to win and wanted to *help* him; so what are the chances Kremlin agents—the Agalarovs—set up a massive Trump-Russia meeting *in Trump's home* and then pulled a Lucy-and-the-football trick on him? Nil.
5/ The chances that the Kremlin would give Trump Clinton materials *in his house* and *directly* were always low—only Trump's lack of sophistication led him (apparently) to expect that. So many of us assumed DCLeaks and Guccifer 2.0 were the fulfillment of the Kremlin's promise.
6/ What Putin wanted from the Trumps on June 9, 2016, was the assurance Trump Jr. almost certainly gave them—as why would he not repeat his father's anti-sanctions stance, but say instead, "We'll see"? That never made *any* sense—Trump wouldn't have let his son change his policy.
7/ So the same week the Kremlin got the assurance it wanted, it set up two separate vehicles to give Trump what *he* wanted—or a variation of it, as DNC leaks are *not* Clinton emails (which is why, 45 days later, Trump had to ask Russia for the emails *directly* and *publicly*).
8/ But this sequence of events shouldn't sit right with journalists either. Just as Putin wouldn't have totally pulled the football away from Trump like Lucy does Charlie Brown in the famous Peanuts cartoon, would he really have given no indication Clinton emails might come, too?
9/ We know that—as of June 7, 2016—Trump wanted Clinton dirt. We know that—as of July 27, 2016 ("Russia, if you're listening")—he was upset that Russia had responded to the June 9, 2016 meeting with hacked materials but given him no Clinton emails. What happened in those 50 days?
10/ It seems likely we have the answer to that already—if we just connect the reporting we have. In the 50 days from June 9 to July 27, 2016, Russia was both seeking the Clinton emails *and* reaching out to Team Trump to get them either those emails or fake ones passing as real.
11/ When we first learned of Peter W. Smith, the now-deceased Republican activist who said he was working with Michael Flynn, Steve Bannon, and Kellyanne Conway to find Clinton's "missing" emails, we were told he was doing this work in *September* of 2016. marketwatch.com/story/republic…
12/ If Smith had indeed been doing his work in September 2016, it would seem to have only the most tenuous connection to the Clinton emails that Trump and his team wanted back in June 2016. In other words, it would look like the Russians had *ignored* that Trump request entirely.
13/ The problem is that the initial reports on Smith, while well-intended, ended up being entirely wrong on one key point: timeline.

In *fact*, not only did Smith begin his work with Flynn in *June 2016*, it's also clear the Russians reached out to *him* about Clinton's emails.
14/ Matt Tait—a senior cybersecurity fellow at the University of Texas at Austin and a past partner with the U.S. intelligence community—says was contacted by Smith for help "around the time the DNC emails were dumped by WikiLeaks," which would be July 22. lawfareblog.com/time-i-got-rec…
15/ But while the Smith-penned "recruitment document" WSJ reported on in June 2017 may have been dated September 7, 2016—and while Smith may have recruited Tait around July 22, 2016—those dates *don't* reflect when Smith, in conjunction with Flynn, began his email-seeking effort.
16/ According to Tait, around July 22, 2016 Smith said "he'd been contacted by someone on the Dark Web" who—it's clear from Tait's account—Smith believed was (a) Russian, and (b) claiming to be in possession of Clinton's emails. So when did Smith *begin* his email-seeking effort?
17/ To answer that, let's go back to that June 7, 2016 planning meeting—which clearly was dealing with a national security issue—at which there were "two other people" mentioned but not named by Giuliani. So who were those "two other people" in on a key national security meeting?
18/ Jeff Sessions was then the nominal head of Trump's national security advisory committee—along with his right-hand man J.D. Gordon, who ran the day-to-day operations of that committee. But that's not the same thing as saying those two were Donald Trump's real NatSec apparatus.
19/ Trump's top national security advisers in *fact* were two "shadow" advisers never named to *any* of Trump's three successive public-facing national security advisory committees: Michael Flynn and Erik Prince. And Erik Prince sent most of his advice to Trump via Steve Bannon.
20/ That Flynn was Trump's top NatSec man is confirmed not only by the fact that he named him his NSA, but by the tasks we now know he gave him and/or permitted him to engage—like secret Russia negotiations during which Flynn was checking in with Mar-a-Lago in late December 2016.
21/ That Erik Prince used Steven Bannon as the conduit for the massive stock of national security advice he gave Trump was testified to under oath by Prince. We know Trump made Prince his emissary in the Flynn-followup negotiations with Russia in the Seychelles in January 2017.
22/ But do you know who Trump entrusted to hire his *entire national security advisory committee*? It wasn't Sessions, Gordon, Flynn, Bannon, or Prince. It was Sam Clovis—the National Co-Chair of his campaign. And who was his top policy adviser during this time? Kellyanne Conway.
23/ Conway was such a trusted Trump adviser—he interviewed her for the job in June 2016, and formally announced her coming aboard on July 1, 2016—that she later *ran his campaign*. Erik Prince was a much more distant adviser, because he actually lives in the United Arab Emirates.
24/ So here's a complete list of Trump aides Peter W. Smith said he was working with to find Hillary's emails (which effort had to have started sometime between mid-June and mid-July for him to make Dark Web contact with Russian hackers by July 22nd):

Flynn
Bannon
Clovis
Conway
25/ Smith was a seasoned, respected, well-connected Republican activist. The idea that he'd name-drop arguably Trump's top four advisers on policy—particularly national security policy and its domestic implications—when he'd *never gotten their permission to do so* is ludicrous.
26/ So now we have to ask the question: if the "two other people" at the pre-June 9 planning session at Trump Tower (where getting Clinton emails via the Russians was discussed) couldn't be the already named people—Manafort, Kushner, Trump Jr., Trump Sr., Cohen—who could they be?
27/ Keeping in mind that *Sam Clovis* was the one who coordinated all the emails from the national security advisory committee—including Papadopoulos' email saying the Russians had stolen Clinton emails—he, Bannon, Flynn, and frankly *Sessions* would be the top candidates here.
28/ Conway hadn't been hired yet, so it couldn't be her. But the chance Bannon, Flynn, Clovis, and/or Sessions were read in on the Clinton email hunt as *late* as June 7, 2016—but likely much earlier—is extremely high. And of course, given Smith's recruitment document, *telling*.
29/ It's extremely likely that when it became clear to Trump that neither DCLeaks nor Guccifer 2.0 were going to dump Clinton emails in their first set of releases—this would be mid- to late June—people who appear to have talked with Trump about Clinton emails sprung into action.
30/ But it's not just that these Trump aides began hunting for Clinton emails, they also needed a cut-out for that outreach to Russia (because it couldn't be done in the self-contained way the June 2016 Trump Tower meeting was done—and that meeting hadn't gone as planned anyway).
31/ In order for Smith to have been selected by top Trump aides, approached by them, and made a cut-out—*and* to have already made contact with the Russians by mid-July 2016—the effort to find the Clinton emails literally *had* to have begun soon after the Trump Tower meeting.
32/ Two follow-ups:

(1) Smith says the Russians *reached out to him*—which means that, assuming the Russians really were Russians, they were following up on Trump Tower, DCLeaks, and Guccifer 2.0.

(2) It would be near-impossible for Trump not to have known what Smith was doing.
33/ Trump was *obsessed* with getting Clinton emails—we know that from his June 7 speech and planning meeting *and* what he said publicly (at huge risk) on July 27, 2016. So the chances that Flynn, Clovis, Bannon, and Conway would've *kept from him what they were doing* are zero.
34/ What I'm saying is we must move *beyond* whether Trump knew of the June '16 Trump Tower meeting—it seems clear that he did—and ask *how much he knew* about the effort four of his top national security advisers made on his behalf (and later lied about) to contact the Russians.
35/ That Peter Smith had hit a wall by July 22—he had to reach out to a UT-Austin cybersecurity expert and ask him to sign a non-disclosure pact just to try to authenticate the "Clinton emails" sent to him—explains why Trump went public with his demand for the emails on July 27.
36/ Keep in mind, while all four Trump advisers have since said they didn't work with Smith, one of them—Flynn—is cooperating with Mueller, so if indeed Smith *wasn't* lying about working with Flynn (which lie, again, would've been career-killing) Mueller already knows about it.
37/ Now here comes the bombshell in all this.
38/ According to the WSJ, Smith created a corporation to help him hide what he was doing—KLS Research—on September 2, 2016. That date is going to be a *serious problem* for Donald Trump if we assume, as we must, that he *did* know about Peter Smith's Clinton email-hunting effort.
39/ Put aside for a moment the obvious—that Smith would've been reporting back to Flynn and the rest, so Trump would've been *told* (ASAP) that Russia had contacted Smith (apparently) by mid-July about stolen materials—and remember when Trump had his first formal NatSec briefing.
40/ That's right: Trump was briefed about the Russian threat on *August 17, 2016*—meaning he was, under the federal aiding/abetting statute, legally responsible to know it was "highly likely" Russia was committing computer crimes a full *16 days* before Smith set up KLS Research.
41/ By law, if Trump knew Smith was seeking Clinton emails in conjunction with his aides—and that Smith had been contacted by Russians saying they had such emails—after August 17, 2016 he was *required by law* to *shut down* Smith's outreach to Russia or face Conspiracy charges.
42/ In fact he did no such thing—as Smith seriously *increased* his effort *16 days after* Trump was on legal notice that Russia was committing crimes against America. Smith was acting as a Trump campaign agent with Trump campaign authority and Trump had to stop him and *didn't*.
43/ So unless you think a seasoned GOP activist was throwing around the names of four top Trump aides willy-nilly—and unless you believe those aides would've hidden info from Trump about the thing he cared most about—you have Trump on Conspiracy over Smith's clandestine efforts.
44/ Moreover, the timeline of all of this confirms that Trump Jr. was lying when he said "nothing came from the meeting"—unless, once again, you think Trump had Don Jr. read in on the emails issue on June 7 and June 9 but suddenly read him *out* of that effort immediately after.
45/ That Peter Smith thereafter "killed himself" immediately after revealing all that he'd done to a reporter in 2017, and that in the "note" that "he" "wrote" he said his death involved (all-caps) "NO FOUL PLAY WHATSOEVER," is a *really* interesting fact. chicagotribune.com/news/local/pol…
46/ I don't think Smith was murdered; I think he killed himself. And he had three reasons, only two of which he put in his note: (1) his health; (2) insurance payments to family; and (3) *he did not want his last months to be spent under indictment and cooperating with the feds*.
47/ So understanding that Trump colluded with the Russians as part of a criminal conspiracy that more than qualifies as an impeachable offense doesn't require that you think Smith was murdered or that anything particularly surprising went on. The story I've told is a mundane one.
48/ Trump, Manafort, Kushner, Don Jr., Cohen, Bannon, Flynn, Clovis, and possibly Conway—in this telling—knew of a follow-up to the June '16 Trump Tower meeting that saw a trusted GOP cut-out *successfully* make contact with the Russians for the material Trump had wanted in June.
49/ While the Russians initiated the contact, Smith initiated the search for that contact. And I'll add a "topper": that when Tait turned Smith down, Smith told the "Russians" to *give everything they had to WikiLeaks*: yet another act of conspiracy, even if the emails were fake.
50/ All Conspiracy requires is a criminal purpose, a "meeting of the minds" between at least two people, and an "act in furtherance" of the conspiracy. It doesn't matter if the crime isn't committed. By that age-old standard, it sure seems we have a criminal conspiracy here. /end
PS/ As you can see, legally it won't matter if the Russians were Russians, the emails were real, or Smith was directly in contact with WikiLeaks. We have here a conspiracy born in Trump's frustration after the June '16 Trump Tower meeting—and media must start asking about it now.
NOTE/ It's not just prosecutors who don't buy into nonsensical, wildly out-of-character behavior—e.g., "Maybe Flynn never told Trump he was working on a thing Trump was obsessed with"—it's defense lawyers, who avoid at all costs running defenses that depend on illogical behavior.
NOTE2/ I wouldn't at all surprised, given Trump reading Michael Cohen in on the Clinton email issue and Cohen being Trump's fixer, if Cohen's inexplicable early-July "vacation" to Russia-allied Italy—where Trump aides had met with Russians previously—is connected to all of this.
NOTE3/ We already know that Cohen's alibi regarding where he went in Italy and who he was with was false, as the man (a musician) he said he was with not only wasn't in that location at that time but wasn't with Cohen *whatsoever*. What will Cohen tell Mueller, if he gets a deal?
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