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Thomas A. Fine 🇺🇸 @thomasafine
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Did we already uncover a Secret Russian Backchannel?
This thread will have some unreported and underreported information in it, especially near the end. It was inspired by Rachel @maddow's excellent reporting on Trump's knowledge of Russian propaganda, which starts here:…
And continues here:…
Ms. @maddow's big point is, where is Trump getting this information? At one point she says:
"They [world leaders] have phone conversations that we don't necessarily know about"
Does Trump have a backchannel of communication with Russia where they feed him crazy propaganda? There's an evidence trail that suggests that they already set one up, and it's already been discovered.
Back in May, I wrote a speculative article about the Trump Tower meeting as it relates to @PreetBharara. The story was based on a translation of text messages between Ike Kaveladze and Natalia Veselnitskay from obtained in the Mueller investigation.…
This trail of text messages makes it very clear: Russia was frustrated by the difficulty, post-election, in communicating with Trump, and were interested in improving these communications.
Did they ever solve this problem? My guess is they had a number of different solutions and paths to communication. But in late August, Russin news sources reported on the use of Russian communication technology in the White House:…
This and similar stories refer to an upgrade of the so-called "Red Phone" system used between the White House and Putin. They specifically mention two Russian companies: Rostec, and Concern Avtomatika.
Rostec is a state-owned corportation who's job is to develop technology in the state interest. It's more of a meta-corporation, in that it works with other private and semi-public corporations for that development. Think of it as an entity that awards government contracts.
According to the above article, Concern Avtomaticka is the largest Russian company for computer security and encrypted communication.

This is where things get interesting.
In September 2018, we added a handful of Russian corporations to our Export Administration Regulations (EAR) Entity List. This is a list of foreign people and companies that have export restrictions placed on them.…
(To be completely honest, I don't fully understand the relationship between the Treasury department's sanctions list, and the Export Administration's EAR Entity List.)
One of these companies added to the list is a research institute called Vega. According to it's web page it is a Rostec-owned company, and is "the main circuit of Concern Avtomatika JSC." [Google Translate].
I couldn't find a better translation for "main circuit", but the name Concern Avtomatika also appears at the very top of their web page. It's obviously a very tight relationship.
Vega was added to the list for "supporting Russian military aerospace production activities.". It was one of nine companies added at this time. Four other companies were added to the list at the same time for enabling "activities of malicious Russian cyber actors".
Based on my searches of the federal register, there was only one other time entities were added to this list for malicious cyber activities: on January 4th 2017, before Trump's inauguration. The entities included the FSB and the GRU.…
This earlier set of additions specifically references Executive Order 13694, an Obama-era executive order for sanctioning entities based on cyber activities.…
To sum up:
Based on the federal register, this executive order was acted on twice with respect to the EAR Entity List. Once just before Trump was inaugurated to add GRU and FSB and three other companies, and once in September 2018, to add four more companies.
At the same time that those four companies were added for malicious cyber activities in September, a close sibling of the company that Russia says installed tech in our White House was also added to the list.
Now we're at the speculation part. What if these things were added as a spin-off of the Mueller investigation? And what if the preference was to give alternate reasons for adding entities when possible to not highlight this connection?
It's possible that one secret backchannel was created by Russia to communicate with Trump, used for months, subsequently discovered, and we took action against them.
It's virtually certain that Mueller knows a lot more than any of us publicly. A helluva lot more.
Wanted to add that yes, it's highly speculative to guess that the EAR entity additions spun out of the Mueller investigation, and I can't even imagine what process would allow for that.

BUT it's also hard to imagine this happening without some level of Mueller awareness.
I would argue that to properly do his job, he and his team have to be aware of every Russia-related investigation, because they're the only ones equipped to notice any links to Trump.
So, while it's very speculative to say it came from Mueller, it's not that speculative to say that Mueller is aware of all of this and has looked at it or is looking at it.
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