Russian ads, email pranks, and tensions in the White House — here are the latest Trump-Russia developments

Vladimir Putin
Vladimir Putin. Pool/Getty Images

New developments in the Russia investigation involving social media, Jared Kushner, Roger Stone, and Michael Flynn capped off a dizzying month of revelations about special counsel Robert Mueller’s probe into Russia’s election interference — and how the White House is reacting.

A clearer picture began to emerge last week of how Russia capitalised on Facebook and Twitter to sow discord, magnify racial and religious tensions, and spread misinformation leading up to the election.

Trump’s senior adviser and son-in-law Jared Kushner was also at the center of several Russia-related stories, beginning with a Politico report about his private email address and ending with his lawyer accidentally forwarding a sensitive Senate Intelligence Committee letter to an email prankster.

We also learned that Kushner’s private conversations with Trump over the summer infuriated White House counsel Don McGahn so much that he reportedly threatened to resign.

Republican strategist and longtime Trump adviser Roger Stone, meanwhile, was interviewed behind closed doors by the House Intelligence Committee, and an associate of former national security adviser Michael Flynn’s Turkish business partner was reportedly subpoenaed by Mueller.

Here’s more on what you may have missed:

  • New reports detailed ads purchased by Russia-linked accounts. The ads boosted Trump, Green Party candidate Jill Stein, and Democratic candidate Bernie Sanders, and at least one ad centered on the Black Lives Matter movement. A group impersonating a California-based Muslim organisation was also set up to push fake stories about Hillary Clinton, the Democratic nominee.
  • Zuckerberg took some heat. President Barack Obama reportedly tried to warn Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg about the threat of fake news right after Trump won. Zuckerberg played down the warnings, despite the fact that Facebook learned it had been infiltrated by Russian hackers months before the election.
  • Twitter entered the fray. Twitter discovered 201 fake accounts linked to Russia’s Facebook activity an testified behind closed doors before the Senate Intelligence Committee. But the committee’s vice chairman, Sen. Mark Warner called the interview “deeply disappointing” and “inadequate.”
  • Jared Kushner’s lawyer sent a sensitive letter to an email prankster: Days after being baited by the prankster, Abbe Lowell accidentally forwarded a sensitive Senate Intelligence Committee letter to the prankster requesting more information from Kushner about a private email account he set up in December.
  • New details emerged about tensions in the White House over Mueller’s probe. White House counsel Don McGahn reportedly threatened to resign because he felt like his concerns about Trump’s frequent meetings with Jared Kushner — which he feared could be construed by Mueller as an effort to coordinate stories — were not being taken seriously.
  • Roger Stone briefly took back the spotlight. Longtime Trump confidant Roger Stone testified before the House Intelligence Committee on Tuesday about his contacts with a Russian hacker implicated in the DNC hacks. His lengthy opening statement referenced a dubious report claiming to debunk the intelligence community’s findings about Russia’s role in the DNC hacks.
  • Mueller subpoenaed an associate of Michael Flynn’s Turkish client: Sezgin Baran Korkmaz was ordered to appear before a federal grand jury on September 22, according to ProPublica. He is a close associate of a Turkish client of former national security adviser Michael Flynn, whose failure to disclose his lobbying work on behalf of Turkish government interests last year is under FBI scrutiny.