Dossier on Trump Campaign Conspiracy with Kremlin
& US Intelligence Agency Consensus on Kremlin Hack
Two days after the US presidential election, Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Ryabkov, told the Interfax news agency in Moscow that the Kremlin had been in regular contact with Donald Trump’s campaign.
For a more complete graphic illustration of the extensive web of relationships between the Trump team and the Kremlin, see: Trump’s YUGE Tangled Web with Putin.
Update: Attorney General Jeff Sessions and other Trump Team members Had Multiple Contacts with Russian Ambassador
On January 10, 2017, in Senate Judiciary Committee hearings on Jeff Sessions’ nomination to the position of Attorney General, Sen. Al Franken asked the Senator from Alabama, “If there is any evidence that anyone affiliated with the Trump campaign communicated with the Russian government in the course of this campaign, what will you do?”
“Sen. Franken, I’m not aware of any of those activities,” Sessions responded. “I have been called a surrogate at a time or two in that campaign and I did not have communications with the Russians, and I’m unable to comment on it.”
Sessions’ answer baldly denied any contact. Moreover, Sessions went out of his way to deny contact in response to a question that did not inquire about that subject.
On March 1st, the Washington Post reported that Sessions had, in fact, twice spoken with Russian Ambassador Sergey Kislyak: at an event outside the Republican National Convention in July and at Session’s office in September.
On July 20, at a Heritage Foundation sponsored panel conversation addressing European relations focused on Russia’s incursions into Ukraine and Georgia, Sessions spoke with Russian ambassador Kislyak.
Two days later, Kislyak met with Trump advisers after a convention-related Global Partners in Diplomacy event at Case Western Reserve University, where several more Trump advisors (including national security advisory committee member Joseph Schmitz and senior economics advisor Steve Moore) were in attendance.
The Trump campaign officials who spoke with the ambassador were J.D. Gordon, Trump campaign director of national security, and Carter Page, another member of Trump campaign’s national security advisory committee who left the campaign later in the summer amid controversy over a speech he gave in Moscow in early July criticizing American foreign policy and sanctions against Russia.
Jeff Sessions, J.D. Gordon (who was listed on the program as “Senior Advisor to Donald Trump Campaign”), and Trump campaign national security advisory committee member Walid Phares all spoke on stage at the Global Partners in Diplomacy event in an auditorium at Case Western Reserve University.
At the time, GOP delegates were questioning an amendment to the party platform that had been quietly engineered the previous week and which appeared to shift party policy by softening a provision supporting Ukraine in its fight against Russian-backed rebels. Trump campaign adviser Gordon said he had advocated for the change and had consulted about the matter with “campaign policy colleagues” before arriving in Cleveland.
Then, on September 8, Sessions spoke with ambassador Kislyak at the senator’s office, along with two or three of the Senator’s staffers, at the height of the effort by Russian hackers to swing the election for Trump.
On March 2, the Palmer Report noted that both Donald Trump and then-campaign advisor Jeff Sessions met the Russian ambassador at Trump’s first foreign policy speech in April of 2016. Russian Ambassador Sergey Kislyak was an invited special guest at Donald Trump’s initial foreign policy speech, during which Trump made a point of spelling out his foreign policy of “an easing of tensions and improved relations with Russia”. Before the speech, Trump and Sessions are known to have met with Kislyak backstage for a reception, though it’s not known what might have been discussed between them.
On March 2, the New York Times revealed that Kislyak also met with Trump’s son-in-law and senior adviser, Jared Kushner, along with now-fired National Security Advisor Michael Flynn, in December 2016 at Trump Tower, some time before the two events of Dec. 29: President Obama issuing sanctions against Russia for interfering in the 2016 election and Flynn assuring Kislyak that Trump would review the sanctions.
As these new revelations of Sessions’ meetings with Kislyak broke, the New York Times reported on March 1st that the British and Dutch governments provided information on meetings in European cities between Russian officials and Trump associates, and that US intelligence intercepted communications of Russian officials – some of them within the Kremlin – discussing contacts with Trump associates.
Reported February 28, 2017 by the Washington Post:
The former British spy who authored the dossier alleging ties between Trump and Russia reached an agreement with the FBI a few weeks before the election for the Bureau to pay him to continue his work.
The agreement to compensate former MI6 agent Christopher Steele came as US intelligence agencies reached a consensus that the Russians had interfered in the presidential election by orchestrating hacks of Democratic Party email accounts.
The FBI’s arrangement with Steele shows that the bureau considered him credible and found his information to be worthy of further investigation. Steele was known for the quality of his past work and for the knowledge he had developed over nearly 20 years working on Russia-related issues for British intelligence.
In October of 2016, anticipating that funding supplied through the original client would dry up, Steele and the FBI reached a spoken understanding that he would continue his investigation of the Kremlin’s ties to Trump and receive compensation for his efforts.
But Steele’s frustration with FBI Director James B. Comey, who had been silent on the Russia inquiry, grew when Comey announced publicly 11 days before the election that the bureau was investigating a newly discovered cache of Clinton emails. Steele’s frustration with the FBI peaked after an Oct. 31 story that said that the FBI had not yet found any “conclusive or direct link” between Trump and the Russian government and that the Russian hacking was not intended to help Trump. Steele then shut down his relationship with the FBI.
After the election, the intelligence community concluded that Russia’s interference had been intended to assist Trump.
Democrats in the House have informally reached out to Steele in recent weeks to ask about his willingness to testify or cooperate with Congressional investigations, but Steele has so far not responded.
Update February 10, 2017: US investigators say they have corroborated some of the communications detailed in a 35-page dossier compiled by a former British intelligence agent, according to multiple current and former US law enforcement and intelligence officials.
The dossier details about a dozen conversations between senior Russian officials and other Russian individuals. Sources would not confirm which specific conversations were intercepted or the content of those discussions – but the intercepts do confirm that some of the conversations described in the dossier took place between the same individuals on the same days and from the same locations as detailed in the dossier.
US intelligence officials emphasize the conversations were solely between foreign nationals, including those in or tied to the Russian government, intercepted during routine intelligence gathering. The corroboration has given US intelligence and law enforcement “greater confidence” in the credibility of some aspects of the dossier.
Some of the individuals involved in the intercepted communications were known to the US intelligence community as “heavily involved” in collecting information damaging to Hillary Clinton and helpful to Donald Trump.
After this was reported by CNN, White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer said, “We continue to be disgusted by CNN’s fake news reporting.”
US Intelligence Assessments of Russian Intelligence Services Cyber-Attacks on US Election
Two intelligence assessments were compiled detailing what was known “with high confidence” by the US Intelligence Community about Russian interference in the 2016 US presidential election.
The first detailed the technical means by which Russian Intelligence Services hacked US cyber systems to undermine the integrity of the US democratic process. The second described the consensus of all 17 US intelligence agencies that Putin was directing the operation, that the hacked emails were transferred by Russia to WikiLeaks, that trolls and fake news reports were employed, and that the operation was intended not only to undermine confidence in the US presidential election but specifically to weaken Hillary Clinton’s credibility if she should win the election and to support Donald Trump in his quest for the presidency.
DHS-FBI – GRIZZLY STEPPE: Russian Malicious Cyber Activity, December 29, 2016 (13 pages)
This Joint Analysis Report (JAR) is the result of analytic efforts between the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) and the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI). This document provides technical details regarding the tools and infrastructure used by the Russian civilian and military intelligence Services (RIS) to compromise and exploit networks and endpoints associated with the US election, as well as a range of US Government, political, and private sector entities. The US Government is referring to this malicious cyber activity by RIS as GRIZZLY STEPPE.
This activity by RIS is part of an ongoing campaign of cyber-enabled operations directed at the US government and its citizens. These cyber operations have included spearphishing campaigns targeting government organizations, critical infrastructure entities, think tanks, universities, political organizations, and corporations leading to the theft of information. … In some cases, RIS actors masqueraded as third parties, hiding behind false online personas designed to cause the victim to misattribute the source of the attack.
Director of National Intelligence – Intelligence Community Assessment: Assessing Russian Activities and Intentions in Recent US Elections, January 6, 2017 (25 pages)
This report includes an analytic assessment drafted and coordinated among The Central Intelligence Agency (CIA), The Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), and The National Security Agency (NSA), which draws on intelligence information collected and disseminated by those three agencies. It covers the motivation and scope of Moscow’s intentions regarding US elections and Moscow’s use of cyber tools and media campaigns to influence US public opinion. The assessment focuses on activities aimed at the 2016 US presidential election and draws on our understanding of previous Russian influence operations.
This report is a declassified version of a highly classified assessment. This document’s conclusions are identical to the highly classified assessment, but this document does not include the full supporting information, including specific intelligence on key elements of the influence campaign.
- Russian efforts to influence the 2016 US presidential election represent the most recent expression of Moscow’s longstanding desire to undermine the US-led liberal democratic order, but these activities demonstrated a significant escalation in directness, level of activity, and scope of effort compared to previous operations.
- We assess Russian President Vladimir Putin ordered an influence campaign in 2016 aimed at the US presidential election. Russia’s goals were to undermine public faith in the US democratic process, denigrate Secretary Clinton, and harm her electability and potential presidency. We further assess Putin and the Russian Government developed a clear preference for President-elect Trump. We have high confidence in these judgments.
- Moscow’s influence campaign followed a Russian messaging strategy that blends covert intelligence operations – such as cyber activity – with overt efforts by Russian Government agencies, state-funded media, third-party intermediaries, and paid social media users or “trolls”.
- We assess Moscow will apply lessons learned from its Putin-ordered campaign aimed at the US presidential election to future influence efforts worldwide, including against US allies and their election processes.
Appended 2-Page Summary (full set of memos here and transcribed below)
Classified documents presented on January 5, 2017 to President Obama and on January 6 to President-elect Trump by the Director of National Intelligence and the Directors of the FBI, CIA and NSA, included information that Russian operatives claim to have compromising personal and financial information about Mr. Trump. The allegations were presented in a two-page synopsis that was appended to a report on Russian interference in the 2016 election, prepared by the US intelligence community at the request of President Obama.
The classified briefings were presented by four of the most senior US intelligence chiefs – Director of National Intelligence James Clapper, FBI Director James Comey, CIA Director John Brennan, and NSA Director Admiral Mike Rogers. These senior intelligence officials included the synopsis to demonstrate that Russia had compiled information potentially harmful to both political parties, but only released information damaging to Hillary Clinton and Democrats.
On the same day that the President-elect was briefed by the intelligence community, the top four Congressional leaders, and chairmen and ranking members of the House and Senate intelligence committees – the so-called “Gang of Eight” – were also provided a summary of the independent memos.
A former British MI6 agent, who spent almost two decades on Russian intelligence matters and who now works with a firm that gathers information on Russia for corporate clients, who regularly consults with US government agencies on Russian matters, and whose past work US intelligence officials consider credible, sent a report he had written for a US opposition research firm to an FBI official in Rome in early July 2016 (and, apparently, to MI6 as well). The former spy says he concluded that the information he had collected on Trump was “sufficiently serious” to share with the FBI, and the FBI is investigating the credibility and accuracy of the allegations.
The former spy cut off contact with the FBI about a month before the Nov. 8 election because he was frustrated by the bureau’s slow progress, which was a deliberate effort on the part of the FBI to avoid interfering in the vote (in spite of FBI Director James Comey’s later gross interference in the election by the announcement of more potential email revelations regarding Hillary Clinton less than two weeks prior to the election – revelations which he later had to retract as irrelevant to his previously-closed investigation).
Senator John McCain, who was informed about the existence of the documents by a former British ambassador to Moscow, dispatched an emissary overseas to meet the source and then decided to present the material to FBI Director Comey in a one-on-one meeting on December 9, 2016. The FBI had already been given a set of the memos compiled up to August 2016, when the former MI6 agent presented them to the FBI agent in Rome. (The Senate Armed Services Committee, which Senator McCain chairs, launched an inquiry in January into Russian cyber-attacks during the election, after the Republican leadership refused his request for a Special Committee).
The former MI6 officer’s investigations related to Trump was opposition research, initially funded by groups and donors supporting Republican opponents of Mr. Trump during the GOP primaries. Once Trump became the nominee, further investigation was funded by groups and donors supporting Hillary Clinton. However, the former spy was never told who was paying the tab because he had contracted only with the DC-based firm.
The first memo, based on the former intelligence officer’s conversations with Russian intelligence sources, noted, “Russian regime has been cultivating, supporting and assisting TRUMP for at least 5 years. Aim, endorsed by PUTIN, has been to encourage splits and divisions in western alliance.” It maintained that Trump “and his inner circle have accepted a regular flow of intelligence from the Kremlin, including on his Democratic and other political rivals”. It claimed that Russian intelligence had “compromised” Trump during his visits to Moscow and could “blackmail him”. It also reported that Russian intelligence had compiled a dossier on Hillary Clinton based on “bugged conversations she had on various visits to Russia and intercepted phone calls”.
The alleged ‘kompromat’ on Trump was said to include “perverted sexual acts arranged and monitored” by the Russian Federal Security Service (FSB). But the Russians, the operative says in the dossier, “promised not to use the ‘kompromat’ they hold on Trump as leverage, given high levels of voluntary cooperation forthcoming from his team”.
The FBI, after receiving the first memo, did not immediately request additional material, according to the former intelligence officer. Yet in August, the FBI asked him for all information in his possession and for him to explain how the material had been gathered and to identify his sources. The former spy forwarded to the bureau several memos – some of which referred to members of Trump’s inner circle. After that point, he continued to share information with the FBI. “It’s quite clear there was or is a pretty substantial inquiry going on,” he said.
One memo, dated July 19, 2016, said that Carter Page, one of Trump’s foreign policy advisers, had held a secret meeting month with Igor Sechin, head of the Rosneft state-owned oil company and a long-serving lieutenant of Vladimir Putin, as well as with Igor Divyekin, a Kremlin Internal Affairs official with a background in intelligence. Page, a vociferous supporter of the Kremlin line, was in Moscow in July to make a speech decrying western policy towards Russia. At the time he declined to say whether he had been in contact with Russian officials. The next month, allegations of Page’s meetings surfaced in the US media, attributed to intelligence sources, along with reports that he had been under FBI scrutiny. A month after Trump’s surprise election victory, Page was back in Moscow meeting with “business leaders and thought leaders”.
Another of the memos compiled in July said that Trump campaign manager Paul Manafort (a former consultant for pro-Russian politicians in Ukraine) “had agreed to sideline Russian intervention in Ukraine as a campaign issue and to raise US/Nato defense commitments in the Baltics and Eastern Europe to deflect attention away from Ukraine”. A few days later, Trump raised the possibility that his administration might recognize Russia’s annexation of Crimea and openly called on Moscow to hack Hillary Clinton’s emails. In August, officials from the Trump campaign intervened in the drafting of the Republican party platform, specifically to remove a call for lethal assistance to Ukraine for its battle against Moscow-backed eastern rebels. Manafort stepped down in August as campaign manager and the campaign steadily distanced itself from Page.
Some of the allegations were first reported publicly in Mother Jones by David Corn one week before the election. The former spy said that he was reluctant to be talking with a reporter, preferring to “stay in the shadows”. But he believed this material was important, and he was unsure how the FBI was handling it.
After speaking with the man, Corn was able to confirm his identity and expertise. A senior US administration official told him that he had worked with the onetime spook, who had an established and respected track record of providing US government agencies with accurate and valuable information about sensitive national security matters. “He is a credible source who has provided information to the US government for a long time, which senior officials have found to be highly credible,” the US official said.
The newsworthy story, as far as Corn was concerned, was that a credible intelligence official had provided information to the FBI alleging Moscow had tried to cultivate and compromise a presidential candidate. And critical the issue – at a time when the FBI was publicly disclosing information about its investigation of Hillary Clinton’s handling of her email at the State Department – was whether the FBI had thoroughly investigated the allegations connecting Russia to Trump.
BuzzFeed, which reported that the memos had been circulating around Washington for months, published the full dossier on January 10, 2017.
The memos authored by the operative claim that the Trump campaign and the Kremlin had established an “exchange of information” of “mutual benefit,” and that Trump’s lawyer, Michael Cohen, met secretly with Kremlin officials in Prague in August 2016.
One month earlier, Trump’s adviser on foreign affairs, Carter Page (a financier who has invested in state-owned Russian gas giant Gazprom) held secret meetings in Moscow with the president of Russia’s state-owned oil company and a senior Kremlin internal affairs official, according to the dossier.
“So far Trump has declined various sweetener real estate business deals offered him in Russia … but he and his inner circle have accepted a regular flow of intelligence from the Kremlin, including on his Democratic and other political rivals,” the memo says.
In August, Democratic members of the House committee on oversight wrote Director Comey to ask the FBI to investigate “whether connections between Trump campaign officials and Russian interests may have contributed to these [cyber] attacks in order to interfere with the US presidential election.”
In September, Sen. Dianne Feinstein and Rep. Adam Schiff, the senior Democrats on, respectively, the Senate and House intelligence committees, issued a joint statement accusing Russia of underhanded meddling: “Based on briefings we have received, we have concluded that the Russian intelligence agencies are making a serious and concerted effort to influence the US election. At the least, this effort is intended to sow doubt about the security of our election and may well be intended to influence the outcomes of the election.”
In October, former Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid wrote an open letter to FBI Director James Comey calling on him to release the “explosive information” he possesses about the “close ties and coordination between Donald Trump, his top advisors, and the Russian government – a foreign interest openly hostile to the United States”. Reid’s former spokesman, Adam Jentleson, said that Reid had seen the documents before writing the letter.
The Guardian learned that the FBI applied for a warrant from the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance (FISA) Court in June in order to monitor members of the Trump team and to intercept the electronic records from two Russian banks apparently tied to a server in the Trump campaign. The FISA court turned down the application, asking FBI counter-intelligence investigators to narrow its focus. They returned with a more narrowly drawn order in July and were rejected again. Finally, before a new judge, the order was granted, on October 15, on evidence of a Trump campaign server that had links to Russia’s Alfa Bank, the largest private commercial bank in Russia (and mentioned in the memos as linked to the US election operation). The investigation was active going into the election.
Trump’s attorney, Michael Cohen, figures extensively in the memos, as does Trump foreign policy adviser Carter Page and former Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort. The spy wrote that ex-Ukranian president Yanukovych confided directly to Putin that he authorized kickbacks to Manafort, and assured Putin that there was no evidence trail. The memo indicates that Cohen clandestinely met Russian agents in Prague August 2016 “to clean up the mess left behind by western media revelations of…Manafort’s corrupt relationship with the former pro-Russian Yanukovych regime in Ukraine and Trump foreign policy advisor Carter Page’s secret meetings in Moscow with senior regime figures in July 2016”.
His memos noted that part of the intent of the Russian campaign was to turn Sanders supporters and educated American youth toward Trump. “This is something of huge significance, way above party politics,” the former intelligence officer said.
A US counterintelligence task force was established by the CIA in the summer of 2016 to investigate possible Russian funding of President-elect Donald Trump’s presidential campaign, the BBC reported on January 13. The task force included the FBI, the Treasury and Justice Departments, the CIA, the Office of the Director of National Intelligence, and the National Security Agency. It was set up after the director of the CIA, John Brennan, received a recording of a conversation about money from the Kremlin going into Trump’s campaign coffers, that was passed to him by the intelligence agency of one of the Baltic States, according to the BBC.
In a New York Times op-ed in August, the former director of the CIA, Michael Morell, wrote: “In the intelligence business, we would say that Mr Putin had recruited Mr Trump as an unwitting agent of the Russian Federation.”
Michael Hayden, former head of both the CIA and the NSA, simply called Mr Trump a “polezni durak” – a useful fool – “some naif, manipulated by Moscow, secretly held in contempt, but whose blind support is happily accepted and exploited”.
In a December 15, 2016 editorial, the New York Times wrote: “There could be no more ‘useful idiot’, to use Lenin’s term of art, than an American president who doesn’t know he’s being played by a wily foreign power.”
Presidential Counselor and Chief Strategist “Alt-Right” leader Steve Bannon is a self-proclaimed fan of Vladimir Putin:
“We the Judeo-Christian West really have to look at what Putin’s talking about as far as traditionalism goes – particularly the sense of where it supports the underpinnings of nationalism…” – Steve Bannon, Vatican speech in 2014 organized by the Human Dignity Institute, dedicated to promoting a “Christian voice” in European politics (Cardinal Raymond Burke, one of the most vocal critics of Pope Francis and who was ousted from a senior Vatican position in 2014, is chair of the group’s advisory board)
Alexander Dugin, who has been described as “Putin’s brain” recently explained what Trump’s “swamp” that he wants to drain really is:
“The Swamp” is to become the new name for the globalist sect, the open society adepts, LGBT maniacs, Soros’ army, the post-humanists, and so on. Draining the Swamp is not only categorically imperative for America. It is a global challenge for all of us.
First of all, the Swamp is an ideology – Liberalism – the last totalitarian political ideology of Modernity.
Secondly, the Swamp is a special post-modernist culture.
Thirdly, it is transnational global capitalism.
In an interview with The Daily Beast, Steve Bannon proudly claimed, “I’m a Leninist. Lenin wanted to destroy the state, and that’s my goal too. I want to bring everything crashing down, and destroy all of today’s establishment.”
Golden-Showergate – the ‘Kompromat’
The memos noted that, during a 2013 trip to the Russian capital, Trump made Russian prostitutes defile a Ritz-Carlton bed where President Obama and First Lady Michelle Obama had stayed on a previous occasion. The incident, a “golden shower”, was apparently captured on surveillance cameras. Trump did travel to Russia in 2013 when he hosted the Miss Universe pageant there, and the Obamas traveled to Moscow in July 2009. They also claimed that Trump participated in sex parties in St. Petersburg where witnesses were bribed to be silent.
These Are the Facts:
The former MI6 intelligence officer, who wrote the memos based on his own investigation and well-established sources from his two decades working on Russian matters – including working undercover in Moscow during the early 1990s and later in London as MI6’s top Russia expert – was considered credible by US intelligence agencies.
The information in the memos was considered credible enough that the four lead US intelligence chiefs felt it necessary to include a summary appended to the confidential report on Russian election interference given to Obama, Trump and the eight Congressional committee chairs with top secret clearance.
The ever-skeptical FBI considered the allegations sufficiently credible to ask the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court for a warrant to monitor “four members of the Trump team suspected of irregular contacts with Russian officials”. The preexisting relationship between Steele and US officials is one reason the FBI took the operative’s allegations seriously when he first turned over a written dossier an FBI agent in Rome last summer.
The memos were specific enough to name people, dates and locations and contained multiple corroborative statements from various high-ranking Russian sources, identified as sources A through G. The memos noted that part of the reason that Paul Manafort was forced off the Trump campaign were the revelations of his involvement in Ukrainian corruption. Trump foreign policy advisor Carter Page, mentioned repeatedly in the memos, was similarly distanced by the Trump campaign.
US Director of National Intelligence James Clapper said that the 2-page synopsis of the memos was included in the presidential briefings because “part of our obligation is to ensure that policymakers are provided with the fullest possible picture of any matters that might affect national security.”
Clapper further said that “The [intelligence community] has not made any judgment that the information in this document is reliable, and we did not rely upon it in any way for our conclusions.”
However, the conclusions reached in the official US Intelligence report on Russian election interference were strikingly similar, in many cases identical, to the information revealed in the memos.
BBC correspondent Paul Wood revealed on January 11 that unnamed active-duty CIA officers told him that “at least one East European intelligence service was aware that the Russians had kompromat (compromising material) on Mr. Trump”. “The head of an East European intelligence agency”, according to the BBC, insists the sex tape exists. The US intelligence insiders said that there is reportedly “more than one tape, not just video, but audio as well, on more than one date, in more than one place, in both Moscow and St. Petersburg” and that the material was “of a sexual nature”.
Last April, according to the BBC, an intelligence agency in one of the Baltic states passed CIA Director John Brennan a recording of a conversation about Kremlin funds being funneled into the US presidential campaign. The intelligence prompted the formation of a joint taskforce involving six US agencies and government departments to investigate the allegations.
Reaction & Double Standard
Trump, not surprisingly, called the revelations “fake news”, “a total political witch hunt” and” “something Nazi Germany would have done”, while accusing the US intelligence community of leaking it to the press, which he called “sick people”, and calling the leak “disgraceful”.
FBI Director Comey knew about the memos and subsequent FBI investigations when he publicly announced the continued probe into Hillary Clinton’s emails, doing precisely what Putin and Trump had wanted: to injure Clinton while immunizing Trump.
Weeks before Comey alerted Congress about new emails potentially related to the Clinton investigation in late October, he had refused to sign onto the Obama administration’s assessment that Russia was behind a series of hacks of the Democratic National Committee, claiming it was too close to the election to make such a politically-charged accusation.
When asked about whether the FBI was investigating any connections between the Trump campaign and Russia before the Senate Select Intelligence Committee on January 10, Comey told Sen. Angus King (I-ME) that “we never confirm or deny a pending investigation”.
“The irony of your making that statement here, I cannot avoid,” Sen. King said incredulously.
Comey said his decision to tell Congress in late October that the FBI was looking into new emails related to their probe of Clinton’s private server was different because that investigation was closed.
House Democrats called for FBI Director James B. Comey’s resignation, following a closed-door briefing from spy chiefs about Russia’s alleged election-related hacking in which they say Comey stonewalled members about whether the FBI is investigating links between Trump’s campaign and the Kremlin.
Democrats accused Comey of being “inconsistent” for refusing to confirm or deny whether or not the FBI was investigating the alleged ties, despite his willingness to frequently update Congress on the status of the FBI’s investigation into Hillary Clinton’s private email server.
The former Democratic Senate leader, Harry Reid, has lambasted Comey for publicizing investigations into Hillary Clinton’s private server, while allegedly sitting on “explosive” material on Trump’s ties to Russia. In a letter to the FBI director, Reid said: “In my communications with you and other top officials in the national security community, it has become clear that you possess explosive information about close ties and co-ordination between Donald Trump, his top advisers, and the Russian government – a foreign interest openly hostile to the United States, which Mr Trump praises at every opportunity. The public has a right to know this information. I wrote to you months ago calling for this information to be released to the public. There is no danger to American interests from releasing it. And yet, you continue to resist calls to inform the public of this critical information.”
The Wall Street Journal’s conservative editorial board on January 12 called for Comey’s resignation, citing a “long history of apparently political decisions” that have hit both sides of the political aisle. “If the FBI director has demonstrated anything in the last year, it’s that he has lost the trust of nearly everyone in Washington, along with every American who believes the FBI must maintain its reputation as a politically impartial federal agency.” Comey has six years left of his 10-year term.
The Justice Department’s inspector general announced, also on January 12, that he is probing the FBI’s handling of the investigation into former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton’s private email server during the 2016 presidential campaign, particularly the agency’s public disclosures about the investigation in the middle of the presidential election.
The review will examine whether Comey followed Justice Department and FBI policies when he took the unusual step of delivering a public statement explaining why his agency wouldn’t pursue criminal charges against Clinton, while publicly stating that Clinton was “extremely careless” in her handling of emails. The probe is also expected to focus on Comey’s public letter to members of Congress only 11 days before the election announcing that the FBI had discovered new emails potentially relevant to the investigation into Clinton’s email server. Soon after, the FBI announced it wasn’t changing its July recommendation that Clinton not face criminal charges – but Democrats have argued the damage against Clinton was already done.
Who is the Author
The author of the memos has been identified as Christopher Steele, 52, a former Russian operations officer for Britain’s MI6 intelligence agency, who had worked as a consultant for the FBI’s Eurasian organized crime section, helping to develop information about ties between suspected Russian gangsters and FIFA. Reuters cited US officials in reporting that it was Steele’s “work on corruption in international soccer that lent credence to his reporting on Trump’s entanglements in Russia”.
Steele worked as an expert on Russia for 20 years during his time at MI6, including as the head of the agency’s Russia desk, and was posted to the UK’s embassy in Moscow as a spy in 1990. Steele has been barred from Russia for more than 20 years, but has maintained a network of sources in the country.
After leaving MI6, Mr Steele co-founded the London-based Orbis Business Intelligence Ltd with his business partner Christopher Burrows in 2009. Steele’s company was initially hired by FusionGPS, a Washington DC-based opposition research firm, to investigate Trump on behalf of unidentified Republicans who wanted to stop Trump’s bid for the GOP nomination (The BBC reported that FusionGPS was initially hired by Jeb Bush). Steele was kept on assignment by FusionGPS after Trump won the nomination and his information was circulated to Democratic Party figures and members of the media. Steele spoke to a number of his old contacts in the FSB, the successor to the KGB, paying some of them for information. Steele continued to compile information from sources inside Russia even after the election.
The 35-page dossier was comprised of several reports filed over the course of six months – from June to December of 2016.
One US official who has worked with Steele said, “He’s a meticulous professional, and there are no questions about his integrity.” The format of the reports tracks the writings of professional intelligence reports, with each claim tied to a particular source, even if the sources (per standard procedure) are never identified. Steve Hall, a former top Russia operations officer for the CIA until 2015, said he found aspects of Steele’s reports to be credible, especially as they related to the Kremlin’s plans for hacking the US election.
BBC news correspondent Paul Wood said he had been told by members of the intelligence community that Mr Steele was “extremely, highly regarded”.
“He’s not the sort of person who will simply pass on gossip,” said a former British foreign office official, who has known Steele for 25 years. “If he puts something in a report he believes there’s sufficient credibility in it for it to be worth considering. Chris is a very straight guy. He could not have survived in the job he was in if he had been prone to flights of fancy or doing things in an ill-considered way.”
Nick Dowling, former director on the National Security Council staff under Bill Clinton and president of IDS International, a government services firm involved in cybersecurity; and David Handley, former senior British government official and expert on intelligence and national security, who was an appointed member of the Most Distinguished Order of St. Michael and St. George as well as a colleague of Chris Steele who has known him for more than 20 years – wrote in an opinion piece on January 12 that “one should not question his integrity, excellence and diligence in intelligence work. He knows Russia exceptionally well and has relationships and experience in the country to support this type of analysis.”
The Foreign Office official acknowledged that the Steele dossier was not perfect, but he pointed out that intelligence reports always came with “gradations of veracity… You aren’t dealing with a binary world where you can say this is true and this isn’t”. He added: “The strongest reason for giving this report credence is that intelligence professionals in the US take it seriously. They were sufficiently persuaded by the author’s track record to find the contents worth passing to the president and president-elect.”
Steele abandoned his home on January 11, concerned that his name was soon to be made public, and fearing Russian reprisals against him. Senior British security sources revealed emergency measures were being taken to make Steele safe, including putting him “in a more secure environment”. Steele had worked with former Russian FSB agent Alexander Litvinenko, who was poisoned with polonium-210 in London in 2006, likely on the direct order of Putin. It was Steele who correctly and quickly realized Litvinenko’s death was a Russian state hit. Litvinenko’s widow is concerned that Steele might also be killed.
Timeline of Events
September 2015: Fusion GPS, a DC-based political research company founded by former three Wall Street Journal reporters, was hired by Republican opponents of Mr Trump (one report claims it was Jeb Bush) to do opposition research during the primary campaign.
June 2016: Christopher Steele’s firm, Orbis Business Intelligence, was sub-contracted by FusionGPS to do general background research on Trump’s business ties to Russia.
June 2016: A US counterintelligence task force – made up of the FBI, the Treasury and Justice Departments, the CIA, the Office of the Director of National Intelligence, and the National Security Agency – was established to investigate possible Russian funding of Trump’s presidential campaign. The task force was set up after the director of the CIA, John Brennan, received a recording – that was passed to him by the intelligence agency of one of the Baltic States – of a conversation about money from the Kremlin going into Trump’s campaign coffers.
July 18, 2016: Trump won the Republican nomination and FusionGPS farmed out its opposition research contract to a supporter of the Democrats. Steele said he was never told the identity of Fusion’s client(s) – he dealt only with his own client, FusionGPS.
Early July 2016: Steele sent his first memo to the FBI, reporting that Trump’s campaign team had agreed to a Russian request to dilute attention on Moscow’s intervention in Ukraine. Four days later Trump stated that he would recognize Moscow’s annexation of Crimea.
Late July and early August 2016: Steele fed his information about Trump’s Russia connections to MI6.
August 2016: The FBI asked Steele for all information in his possession and for him to explain how the material had been gathered and to identify his sources.
August 5, 2016: The former director of the CIA, Michael Morell, wrote in a New York Times op-ed: “In the intelligence business, we would say that Mr Putin had recruited Mr Trump as an unwitting agent of the Russian Federation.”
August 2016: NBC News reported that Manafort was a key player in multi-million-dollar business propositions with Russian and Ukrainian oligarchs – one of them a close Putin ally with alleged ties to organized crime. According to The New York Times, Manafort was paid $12.7 million in cash representing pro-Russian Viktor Yanukovych, who fled to Russia in 2014 after he was ousted as president of Ukraine.
August 2016: The Trump campaign asked the Republican party’s election platform to remove a pledge for military assistance to the Ukrainian government against separatist rebels in the east of the country. Trump called on the Russians to hack Clinton’s emails.
August 2016: Democratic members of the House committee on oversight wrote Comey to ask the FBI to investigate “whether connections between Trump campaign officials and Russian interests may have contributed to these [cyber] attacks in order to interfere with the US presidential election”.
End of August 2016: Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid wrote to FBI Director James Comey demanding an investigation of the “connections between the Russian government and Donald Trump’s presidential campaign,” and referred to Carter Page, an American businessman cited by Trump as one of his foreign policy advisers, who had financial ties to Russia and had recently visited Moscow.
September 2016: Steele compiled a set of memos – some of which referred to members of Trump’s inner circle – through August into one document and passed it to his contacts at the FBI. After that point, he continued to share information with the FBI as he acquired it.
September 2016: Sen. Dianne Feinstein and Rep. Adam Schiff, the senior Democrats on, respectively, the Senate and House intelligence committees, issued a joint statement accusing Russia of underhanded meddling: “Based on briefings we have received, we have concluded that the Russian intelligence agencies are making a serious and concerted effort to influence the U.S. election. At the least, this effort is intended to sow doubt about the security of our election and may well be intended to influence the outcomes of the election.” The Obama White House declared Russia the culprit in the hacking efforts and promised a “proportional” response.
October 15, 2016: The FBI was granted a warrant by a judge in the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance (FISA) court to intercept the electronic records from two Russian banks that may have been implicated in a money transfer to the Trump campaign. Three Trump associates were the subject of the inquiry.
October 25, 2016: Trump surrogate Rudy Giuliani said on the FOX News that the campaign has a “couple of surprises” left… and I think it will be enormously effective. And I do think that all of these revelations about Hillary Clinton finally are beginning to have an impact.”
October 28, 2016: FBI head James Comey sends letter to Congress alerting to the re-opening of the investigation into Clinton emails (Guiliani seemed to have received advance notice from the NY FBI).
October 30, 2016: Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid sent Comey a letter saying the FBI chief may have broken the law and pointed to a potentially greater controversy: “In my communications with you and other top officials in the national security community, it has become clear that you possess explosive information about close ties and coordination between Donald Trump, his top advisors, and the Russian government…The public has a right to know this information.”
October 31, 2016: President Obama called Putin on the Red Phone, and said “International law, including the law for armed conflict, applies to actions in cyberspace. We will hold Russia to those standards.”
October 31, 2016: The FBI announced it was conducting a preliminary inquiry into Donald Trump’s former campaign manager Paul Manafort’s foreign business connections.
October 31, 2016: Mother Jones publishes information from an interview by David Corn, their Washington editor, with a frustrated and demoralized Christopher Steele (with an agreement not to reveal his name, his nationality, or the spy agency he worked for), about his findings and the FBI’s lack of follow-through. Steele told Corn: “There was an established exchange of information between the Trump campaign and the Kremlin of mutual benefit.” Corn noted that Steele was reluctant to come to the press, but felt the issue too important to sit on.
November 3, 2016: Michael Hayden, former head of both the CIA and the NSA, called Mr Trump a “polezni durak” – “some naif, manipulated by Moscow, secretly held in contempt, but whose blind support is happily accepted and exploited”.
November 8, 2016: Donald Trump is elected by a minority of the American voters, and the FusionGPS contract is concluded. However, both Steele and Fusion partner Glenn Simpson, a former Wall Street Journal reporter, came to believe that a cabal within the FBI was attempting to block a thorough inquiry into Trump, focusing instead on the investigation into Hillary Clinton’s emails, and they decided to continue pursuing the intelligence beyond the contract.
November 18, 2016: At the annual Halifax International Security Forum, Senator John McCain learns about the Steele dossier from former British ambassador to Moscow Sir Tim Barrow, who was the embassy chief while Christopher Steele served there as covert MI6 officer. Sir Barrow vouched for the reliability of the source.
November 30, 2016: Seven members of the Senate Intelligence Committee asked President Obama to declassify and publicize more information on Russia’s role in the US election.
December 9, 2016: President Obama ordered the US Intelligence Community to investigate Russian interference in the election and report to him before he leaves office on January 20, 2017.
December 9, 2016: McCain received the dossier from the former British Ambassador and personally turned it over to FBI Director Comey in a one-on-one private meeting.
December 11, 2016: McCain called for a special select committee of the US Senate to investigate Russian meddling in the election.
December 15, 2016: In an editorial, the New York Times wrote: “There could be no more ‘useful idiot’, to use Lenin’s term of art, than an American president who doesn’t know he’s being played by a wily foreign power.”
December 2016: Steele completes his 35-page dossier, comprised of multiple reports, and filed over the course of six months – from June to December of 2016.
December 12, 2016: Republican Majority Leader Sen. Mitch McConnell and House Speaker Paul Ryan in announced that they supported investigations into possible Russian cyberattacks to influence the American election.
December 26: Oleg Erovinkin, a former KGB official who was suspected assisting former British spy Christopher Steele in compiling a dossier alleging Trump ties to Russia, is found dead in the back seat of his car in Moscow.
December 29, 2016: President Obama announced a series of punitive measures against Russia that were said to be “the biggest retaliatory move against Russian espionage since the Cold War”, which included sanctions on four top officials of the GRU and declared 35 Russian suspected spies in the United States persona non grata, ordering them to leave the country within 72 hours, in addition to further undisclosed sanctions.
January 5, 2017: Four US intelligence chiefs – Director of National Intelligence James Clapper, FBI Director James Comey, CIA Director John Brennan, and NSA Director Admiral Mike Rogers – brief President Obama on Russian interference in the US election, and include a 2-page summary of the Steele memos as an appendix to their classified document.
January 5, 2017: Director of National Intelligence James Clapper, NSA Director Admiral Mike Rogers and Marcel Lettre, undersecretary of defense for intelligence, testified before the Senate Armed Services Committee, chaired by Sen. John McCain, on Russian interference in the US election.
January 6, 2017: President-Elect Trump is briefed on the classified joint intelligence report, and an abbreviated declassified version of the joint intelligence report is released to the public, concluding that Russia carried out a comprehensive cyber campaign, ordered by Russian President Vladimir Putin, to sabotage the US presidential election and to help elect Donald Trump.
January 10, 2017: CNN broke the news that a 2-page summary of the Steele memos was included with a classified briefing of Obama and Trump on the Joint Intelligence report “Assessing Russian Activities and Intentions in Recent US Elections”. CNN identified Steele not by name but as “a former British intelligence operative, whose past work US intelligence officials consider credible”.
January 10, 2017: BuzzFeed publishes the full dossier “making explosive – but unverified – allegations that the Russian government has been ‘cultivating, supporting and assisting’ President-elect Donald Trump for years and gained compromising information about him. The story noted that the dossier “includes specific, unverified, and potentially unverifiable allegations of contact between Trump aides and Russian operatives, and graphic claims of sexual acts documented by the Russians”. It identified the author only as “a person who has claimed to be a former British intelligence official”.
January 11, 2017: First the Wall Street Journal, then The New York Times, NBC and The Telegraph and The Guardian identified Christopher Steele as the former MI6 agent and Moscow expert who assembled the dossier.
January 11, 2017: Christopher Steele abandoned his house and took his family to a safe house, apparently arranged by MI6, fearing retaliation from Russia, much as his colleague, former Russian spy Alexander Litvinenko who had fled to London, was poisoned on orders from Putin in 2006.
January 2017: The Senate Armed Services Committee, which Senator McCain chairs, launched an inquiry into Russian cyber-attacks during the election, after the Republican leadership refused his request for a Special Committee.
January 13, 2017: Senate Intelligence Chairman Richard Burr (R-NC) said that his committee would investigate possible contacts between Donald Trump’s campaign and Russia, reversing himself one day after telling reporters that the issue would be outside of his panel’s ongoing probe into Moscow’s election-disruption efforts.
January 13, 2017: Penthouse magazine has received three claims for its $1 million offer to anyone who could provide real tapes of President-elect Donald Trump’s alleged sexual escapades at the Ritz-Carlton in Moscow, the publication’s editor, Raphie Aronowitz, revealed to International Business Times. The magazine, offered $1 million for exclusive rights to videos proving the allegations against Trump.
Recently (date withheld): In a meeting between Israeli and American intelligence, the Americans recommended that until it is made clear that Trump is not inappropriately connected to Russia and is not being extorted Israel should avoid revealing sensitive sources to administration officials for fear the information would go to the Kremlin and reach the Iranians. The American officials added that they believed Russia President Vladimir Putin had “leverages of pressure” over Trump.
January 22, 2017: The Wall Street Journal reports: “US counterintelligence agents have investigated communications that President Donald Trump’s national security adviser had with Russian officials, according to people familiar with the matter.”
February 9, 2017: The Washington Post reports that Flynn did, in fact, discuss US sanctions in his phone calls with Kislyak, contrary to Flynn’s and the administration’s previous statements.
February 13, 2017: Flynn resigns.
February 14, 2017: The New York Times reports that “members of Donald J. Trump’s 2016 presidential campaign and other Trump associates had repeated contacts with senior Russian intelligence officials in the year before the election, according to four current and former American officials.”
February 28, 2017: The Washington Post reports that the FBI was prepared to pay the former British intelligence operative, Christopher Steele, to continue his work, indicating the Bureau found him credible.
March 1, 2017: The Washington Post reports that Attorney General Jeff Sessions did speak with the Russian ambassador during the campaign, appearing to contradict his past statements.
March 2, 2017: As congressional Democrats call for Sessions to resign and even some Republicans say he should recuse himself from an investigation into ties between Russia and the Trump campaign, Trump announces he has “total confidence” in the attorney general.
Sessions announces he will recuse himself from any investigation into ties between Russia and the Trump campaign.
March 3, 2017: CNN reports on additional meetings that took place between Trump associates and Kislyak.
March 16, 2017: The Washington Post reports that Michael Flynn collected nearly $68,000 in fees and expenses from Russia-related entities in 2015, prior to his ill-fated appointment as Trump’s National Security Advisor. The payments included more than $45,000 from the Russian government-backed RT television network, $11,250 from the US subsidiary of Russian cybersecurity firm Kaspersky Lab, and another $11,250 from the Russian charter cargo Volga-Dnepr Airlines. Flynn also filed paperwork indicating that he had been a foreign agent during the time he was a top adviser to Trump’s campaign.
Complete Dossier on Trump-Kremlin Conspiracy
Source A: senior Russian Foreign Ministry figure
Source B: former top level Russian intelligence officer still active inside the Kremlin
Source C: senior Russian financial official
Source D: close associate of Trump who had organized and managed his recent trips to Moscow
Source E: [redacted] provided an introduction for a company ethnic Russian operative to
Source F: a female staffer at the Ritz Carlton Hotel when Trump had stayed there
Source G: senior Kremlin official
Named Trump Campaign Team Conspirators
Michael Cohen, attorney for Trump, Inc. (and Trump’s “pit bull”)
Paul Manafort (fired from Trump campaign in August 2016 after revelations of $12.7 million Ukraine kickbacks)
Carter Page, Trump foreign affairs advisor (Trump campaign distanced itself from Page mid-summer)
Named Kremlin Conspirators
Vladimir Putin, Russian President
Dmitry Medvedev, Russian Premier
Viktor Yanukovych, ex-President of Ukraine (authorized kickbacks to Paul Manafort)
Dmitry Peskov, chief Kremlin spokesman (responsible for the Clinton dossier)
Sergei Ivanov, Presidential Administration Head (sacked for poor advice on operation)
Igor Divyekin, Internal Political Department of the PA (discussed ‘kompromat’ on Clinton and Trump)
Sergi Kislyak, Russian Ambassador to the US
Yuri Ushakov, presidential foreign policy advisor
Mikhail Kulagin, Russian diplomat in Washington DC (withdrawn because of possible exposure)
Igor Sechin, Rosneft President and Putin associate (met with Carter Page, discussed lifting sanctions)
Araz Agalarov, Azeri businessman (knows about Trump bribes and sex parties in St. Petersburg)
Konstanti Kosachev, Duma member (facilitated Cohen meeting in Prague)
Oleg Solodukhin, with NGO Rossotrudnichestvo (laundered cash payments to Romanian hackers)
XBT/Webzilla (used botnets and porn traffic to transmit viruses, plant bugs, steal data and conduct “altering operations” against the Democratic Party leadership)
Aleksei Gubarov & Seva Kapsugovich (hacking experts recruited by FSB)
Errors & Reliability
BuzzFeed, which was the only news media to release the full memos, wrote that the memos include some clear errors, such as the misspelling of the Alfa Group as “Alpha Group”. These are exceptionally minor and irrelevant errors. No reliable source, however, has demonstrated that any of the extensive substantive statements in the memos are false, and other sources are beginning to corroborate the essential elements.
However, Buzzfeed defended its publication of the material, while admitting that it’s “unverified and potentially unverifiable”. Such is the nature of all covert intelligence, which is why the US intelligence community can only state they have “high confidence” in their findings about Russian interference in the US election. The official US findings and conclusions are remarkably similar, in some cases identical, to the information in these memos.
Summary of the Information
There was a well-developed conspiracy of cooperation between Donald Trump’s campaign and the Russian leadership. This was managed on the Trump side by the Republican candidate’s campaign manager, Paul Manafort, who was using foreign policy advisor Carter Page and others as intermediaries. The two sides had a mutual interest in defeating Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton, whom President Putin apparently both hated and feared.
The Russian regime had been behind the recent leak of embarrassing e-mail messages emanating from the Democratic National Committee (DNC) to the WikiLeaks platform. The reason for using WikiLeaks was ‘plausible deniability’ and the operation had been conducted with the full knowledge and support of Trump and senior members of his campaign team. In return, the Trump team had agreed to sideline Russian intervention in Ukraine as a campaign issue and to raise questions about the US/NATO defense commitments in the Baltics and Eastern Europe to deflect attention away from Ukraine, a priority for Putin who needed to cauterize the subject.
The Romanian hackers involved in the email theft had been paid by both Trump’s team and the Kremlin.
Trump and his campaign team were relatively relaxed about public revelations of Russian email hacking because it deflected the media and the Democrat’s attention away from Trump’s business dealings in China, which were substantial and involved payment of large bribes and kickbacks which, were they to become public, would be potentially very damaging to his campaign.
Specifics on Trump’s Campaign Team Co-Conspirators
Michael Cohen is Executive Vice-President of the Trump Organization, co-president of Trump Entertainment, a member of the board of the Eric Trump Foundation, and was involved in Trump’s 2016 presidential campaign. He is known as Trump’s “pit bull”.
RUSSIA/US PRESIDENTIAL ELECTION: FURTHER DETAILS OF KREMLIN LIAISON WITH TRUMP CAMPAIGN – October 18, 2016
Speaking separately to the same compatriot in mid-October 2016, a Kremlin insider with direct access to the leadership confirmed that a key role in the secret Trump campaign/Kremlin relationship was being played by the Republican candidate’s personal lawyer Michael Cohen.
RUSSIA/US PRESIDENTIAL ELECTION: THE IMPORTANT ROLE OF TRUMP LAWYER COHEN IN CAMPAIGN’S SECRET LIAISON WITH THE KREMLIN – October 19, 2016
Speaking in confidence to a longstanding compatriot friend in mid-October 2016, a Kremlin insider highlighted the importance of Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump’s lawyer, Michael Cohen, in the ongoing secret liaison relationship between the New York tycoon’s campaign and the Russian leadership. Cohen’s role had grown following the departure of Paul Manafort as Trump’s campaign manager in August 2016. Prior to that, Manafort had led for the Trump side.
According to the Kremlin insider, Cohen now was heavily engaged in a cover-up and damage-limitation operation in the attempt to prevent the full details of Trump’s relationship with Russia being exposed. In pursuit of this aim, Cohen had met secretly with several Russian Presidential Administration (PA) Legal Department officials in an EU country in August 2016. The immediate issues had been to contain further scandals involving Manafort’s commercial and political role in Russia/Ukraine and to limit the damage arising from exposure of former Trump foreign policy advisor Carter Page’s secret meetings with Russian leadership figures in Moscow the previous month. The overall objective had been to “sweep it all under the carpet and make sure no connections could be fully established or proven”.
RUSSIA/US PRESIDENTIAL ELECTION: FURTHER DETAILS OF TRUMP LAWYER COHEN’S SECRET LIAISON WITH THE KREMLIN – October 20, 2016
Speaking to a compatriot and friend on 19 October 2016, a Kremlin insider provided further details of reported clandestine meeting/s between Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump’s lawyer, Michael Cohen and Kremlin representatives in August 2016. Although the communication between them had to be cryptic for security reasons, the Kremlin insider clearly indicated to his/her friend that the reported contact/s took place in Prague, Czech Republic.
Continuing on this theme, the Kremlin insider highlighted the importance of the Russian parastatal organization, Rossotrudnichestvo, in this contact between Trump campaign representative/s and Kremlin officials. Rossotrudnichestvo [Confederation of Independent (former Soviet) States] was being used as cover for this relationship and its office in Prague may well have been used to host the Cohen/Russian Presidential Administration (PA) meeting/s. It was considered a ‘plausibly deniable’ vehicle for this, whilst remaining entirely under Kremlin control.
Paul John Manafort, Jr. is best known for his lobbying efforts on behalf of pro-Russian Ukrainian leader Viktor Yanukovych as well as for dictators such as Ferdinand Marcos and Mobutu Sese Seko and guerrilla leader Jonas Savimbi. He was an adviser to the presidential campaigns of Republicans Gerald Ford, Ronald Reagan, George H W Bush, Bob Dole, and was the national chairman of the presidential campaign of Donald Trump from March 2016 until he was forced out in August, when it was reported that Manafort may have illegally received $12.7 million in off-the-books funds from Viktor Yanukovych.
One of the memos compiled by the former western counter-intelligence official in July said that members of Trump’s team, which was led by campaign manager Paul Manafort (a former consultant for pro-Russian politicians in Ukraine), had knowledge of the DNC hacking operation, and in return “had agreed to sideline Russian intervention in Ukraine as a campaign issue and to raise US/Nato defence commitments in the Baltics and Eastern Europe to deflect attention away from Ukraine”.
A few days later, Trump raised the possibility that his administration might recognize Russia’s annexation of Crimea and openly called on Moscow to hack Hillary Clinton’s emails.
In August, officials from the Trump campaign intervened in the drafting of the Republican party platform, specifically to remove a call for lethal assistance to Ukraine for its battle against Moscow-backed eastern rebels.
Manafort was force out in August as Trump campaign manager and the campaign steadily distanced itself from Page. However, Trump’s praise of Putin and defense of Moscow’s actions in Ukraine and Syria remained one of the few constants in his campaign talking points.
RUSSIAN/US PRESIDENTIAL ELECTION: FURTHER INDICATIONS OF EXTENSIVE CONSPIRACY BETWEEN TRUMP’S CAMPAIGN TEAM AND THE KREMLIN – July 19, 2016
Speaking in confidence to a compatriot in late July 2016, Source E, an ethnic Russian close association of US presidential candidate Donald Trump, admitted that there was a well-developed conspiracy of cooperation between them and the Russian leadership. This was managed on the Trump side by the Republican candidate’s campaign manager, Paul Manafort, who was using foreign policy advisor Carter Page and others as intermediaries. The two sides had a mutual interest in defeating Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton, who President Putin apparently both hated and feared.
Inter alia [among other things], Source E acknowledged that the Russian regime had been behind the recent leak of embarrassing e-mail messages, emanating from the Democratic National Committee (DNC), to the WikiLeaks platform. The reason for using WikiLeaks was ‘plausible deniability’ and the operation had been conducted with the full knowledge and support of Trump and senior members of his campaign team. In return, the Trump team had agreed to sideline Russian intervention in Ukraine as a campaign issue and to raise US/NATO defense commitments in the Baltics and Eastern Europe to deflect attention away from Ukraine, a priority for Putin, who needed to cauterize the subject.
RUSSIA/UKRAINE: THE DEMISE OF TRUMP’S CAMPAIGN MANAGER PAUL MANAFORT– August 22, 2016
Speaking in late August 2016, in the immediate aftermath of Paul Manafort’s resignation as campaign manager for US Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump, a well-placed Russian figure reported on a recent meeting between President Putin and ex-President Yanukovych of Ukraine. This had been held in secret on 15 August near Volgograd, Russia and the Western media revelations about Manafort and Ukraine had featured prominently on the agenda. Yanukovych had confided in Putin that he did authorize and order substantial kick-back payments to Manfort as alleged but sought to reassure him that there was no documentary trail left behind which could provide clear evidence of this.
Carter Page is the founder and managing partner of Global Energy Capital, a New York investment fund and consulting firm specializing in the Russian and Central Asian oil and gas business. He was named a foreign policy advisor to Trump’s presidential campaign (which campaign staffers later denied).
A memo, dated 19 July 2016 said that Carter Page, a businessman named by Trump as one of his foreign policy advisers, had held a secret meeting that month with Igor Sechin, head of the Rosneft state-owned oil company and a long-serving lieutenant of Vladimir Putin. Page also allegedly met Igor Divyekin, an internal affairs official with a background in intelligence, who is said to have warned Page that Moscow had ‘kompromat’ (compromising material) on Trump.
Two months later, allegations of Page’s meetings surfaced in the US media, attributed to intelligence sources, along with reports that he had been under FBI scrutiny.
Page, a vociferous supporter of the Kremlin line, was in Moscow in July to make a speech decrying western policy towards Russia. At the time he declined to say whether he had been in contact with Russian officials, but in September he rejected the reports as “garbage”.
The Guardian learned that the FBI applied for a warrant from the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance (FISA) Court over the summer in order to monitor members of the Trump team suspected of irregular contacts with Russian officials.
A month after Trump’s surprise election victory, Page was back in Moscow saying he was meeting with “business leaders and thought leaders”, dismissing the FBI investigation as a “witch-hunt” and suggesting the Russian hacking of the Democratic Party alleged by US intelligence agencies, could be a false flag operation to incriminate Moscow.
SECRET KREMLIN MEETINGS ATTENDED BY TRUMP ADVISOR, CARTER PAGE, IN MOSCOW (JULY 2016)
Speaking to a trusted compatriot in mid-October 2016, a close associate of Rosneft President and Putin ally Igor Sechen elaborated on the reported secret meeting between the latter and Carter Page, of US Republican presidential candidate’s foreign policy team, in Moscow in July 2016. The secret meeting had been confirmed to him/her by a senior member of Sechin’s staff, in addition to by the Rosneft President himself. It took place either 7 or 8 July, the same day or the one after Carter Page made a public speech to the Higher Economic School in Moscow.
In terms of the substance of their discussion, Sechin’s associate said that the Rosneft President was so keen to lift personal and corporate sanctions imposed on the company, that he offered Page/Trump’s associates the brokerage of up to a 19% (privatized) stake in Rosneft in return. Page expressed interest and confirmed that were Trump elected US president, then sanctions on Russia would be lifted.
In excerpts from an hour-long interview published by the Wall Street Journal on January 13, Trump said: “If you get along and if Russia is really helping us, why would anybody have sanctions if somebody’s doing some really great things?” Trump suggested he might do away with the sanctions.
COMPANY INTELLIGENCE REPORT 2016/102 – August 10, 2016
Speaking in confidence on 9 August 2016, an ethnic Russian associate of Republican US presidential candidate Donald Trump discussed the reaction inside his camp, and revised tactics therein resulting from recent negative publicity concerning Moscow’s clandestine involvement in the campaign. Trump’s associate reported that the aim of leaking the DNC e-mails to WikiLeaks during the Democratic Convention had been to swing supporters of Bernie Sanders away from Hillary Clinton and across to Trump. These voters were perceived as activists and anti-status-quo and anti-establishment and in that regard sharing many features with the Trump campaign, including a visceral dislike of Hillary Clinton. This objective had been conceived and promoted, inter alia [among other things], by Trump’s foreign policy advisor Carter Page, who had discussed it directly with the ethnic Russian associate.
Full Text of Memos (absent one lengthy memo on background of Russian cyber operations not directly relevant to the 2016 US election operation)
COMPANY INTELLIGENCE REPORT 2016/080 – June 20, 2016
US PRESIDENTIAL ELECTION: REPUBLICAN CANDIDATE DONALD TRUMP’S ACTIVITIES IN RUSSIA AND COMPROMISING RELATIONSHIP WITH THE KREMLIN
• Russian regime has been cultivating, supporting and assisting Trump for at least 5 years. Aim, endorsed by Putin, has been to encourage splits and divisions in Western alliance.
• So far, Trump has declined various sweetener real estate business deals offered him in Russia in order to further the Kremlin’s cultivation of him. However, he and his inner circle have accepted a regular flow of intelligence from the Kremlin, including on his Democratic and other political rivals.
• Former top Russian intelligence officer claims FSB has compromised Trump through his activities in Moscow sufficiently to be able to blackmail him. According to several knowledgeable sources, his conduct in Moscow has included perverted sexual acts which have been arranged/monitored by the FSB.
• A dossier of compromising matieral on Hillary Clinton has been collated by the Russian Intelligence Services over many years and mainly comprises bugged conversations she had on various visits to Russia and intercepted phone calls rather than any embarrassing conduct. The dossier is controlled by Kremlin spokesman, Peskov, directly on Putin’s orders. However it has not as yet been distributed abroad, including to Trump. Russian intentions for its deployment still unclear.
1. Speaking to a trusted compatriot in June 2016, Sources A and B, a senior Russian Foreign Ministry figure and a former top level Russian intelligence officer still active inside the Kremlin respectively, the Russian authorities had been cultivating and supporting US Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump for at least 5 years. Source B asserted that the Trump operation was both supported and directed by Russian President Vladimir Putin. Its aim was to sow discord and disunity, both within the US itself, but more especially within the Transatlantic alliance which was viewed as inimical to Russia’s interests. Source C, a senior Russian financial official, said the Trump operation should be seen in terms of Putin’s desire to return to nineteenth century ‘Great Power’ politics anchored upon countries’ interests rather than the ideal-based international order established after World War Two. S/he had overheard Putin talking this way to close associates on several occasions.
2. In terms of specifics, Source A confided that the Kremlin had been feeding Trump and his team valuable intelligence on his opponents, including Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton, for several years (see more below). This was confirmed by Source D, a close associate of Trump who had organized and managed recent trips to Moscow, and who reported, also in June 2016, that this Russian intelligence had been “very helpful”. The Kremlin’s cultivation operation on Trump also had comprised offering him various lucrative real estate development business deals in Russia, especially in relation to the ongoing 2018 World Cup soccer tournament. However, so far, and for reasons unknown, Trump had not take up any of these.
3. However, there were other aspects to Trump’s engagement with the Russian authorities. One which had borne fruit for them was to exploit Trump’s personal obsessions and sexual perversion in order to obtain suitable ‘kompromat’ (compromising material) on him. According to Source D, where s/he had been present, Trump’s (perverted) conduct in Moscow included hiring the presidential suite of the Ritz Carlton Hotel, where he knew President and Mrs. Obama (whom he hated) had stayed on one of their official trips to Russia, and defiling the bed where they had slept by employing a number of prostitutes to perform a ‘golden showers” (urination) show in front of him. The hotel was known to be under FSB control, with microphones and concealed cameras in all the main rooms to record anything they wanted to.
4. The Moscow Ritz Carlton episode involving Trump reported above was confirmed by Source E [redacted], who said that s/he and several of the staff were aware of it at the time and subsequently. S/he believed it had happened in 2013. Source E provided an introduction for a company ethnic Russian operative to Source F, a female staffer at the hotel when Trump had stayed there, who also confirmed the story. Speaking separately in June 2016, Source B (the former top level Russian intelligence officer) asserted that Trump’s unorthodox behavior in Russia over the years had provided the authorities there with enough embarrassing material on the now Republican presidential candidate to be able to blackmail him if they so wished.
5. Asked about the Kremlin’s reported intelligence feed to Trump over recent years and rumors about a Russian dossier of ‘kompromat’ on Hillary Clinton (being circulated), Source B confirmed the file’s existence. S/he confided in a trusted compatriot that it had been collated by Department K of the FSB for many years, dating back to her husband Bill’s presidency, and comprised mainly of eavesdropped conversations of various sorts rather than details/evidence of unorthodox or embarrassing behavior. Some of the conversations were from bugged comments Clinton had made on her various trips to Russia and focused on things she had said which contradicted her current position on various issues. Others were most probably from phone intercepts.
6. Continuing on this theme, Source G, a senior Kremlin official, confided that the Clinton dossier was controlled exclusively by chief Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov, who was responsible for compiling/handling it on the explicit instructions of Putin himself. The dosser, however, had not as yet been made available abroad, including to Trump or his campaign team. At present, it was unclear what Putin’s intentions were in this regard.
COMPANY INTELLIGENCE REPORT 2016/094 – July 19, 2016
RUSSIA: SECRET KREMLIN MEETINGS ATTENDED BY TRUMP ADISOR, CARTER PAGE, IN MOSCOW (JULY 2016)
• Trump advisor Carter Page holds secret meetings in Moscow with Sechin and senior Kremlin Internal Affairs official, Divyekin.
• Sechin raises issues of future bilateral US-Russia energy cooperation and associated lifting of western sanctions against Russia over Ukraine. Page non-committal in response.
• Divyekin dicusses release of Russian dossier of ‘kompromat’ on Trump’s opponent, Hillary Clinton, but also hints at Kremlin possession of such material on Trump.
1. Speaking in July 2016, a Russian source close to Rosneft President, Putin close associate and US-sanctioned individual Igor Sechin, confided the details of a recent secret meeting between him and visiting Foreign Affairs advisor to Republican candidate Donald Trump, Carter Page.
2. According to Sechin’s associate, the Rosneft President (CEO) had raised with Page the issues of future bilateral energy cooperation and prospects for an associated move to lift Ukraine-related Western sanctions against Russia. Page had reacted positively to this demarche [political step or initiative] by Sechin but had been generally non-committal in response.
3. Speaking separately, also in July 2016, an official close to Presidential Administration (PA) Head, S. Ivanov, confided in a compatriot that a senior colleague in the Internal Political Department of the PA, Divyekin (nfd) also had met secretly with Page on his recent visit. Their agenda had included Divyekin raising a dossier of ‘kompromat’ the Kremlin possessed on Trump’s Democratic presidential rival, Hillary Clinton, and its possible release to the Republican’s campaign team.
4. However, the Kremlin official close to S. Ivanov added that s/he believed Divyekin also had hinted (or indicated more strongly) that the Russian leadership also had ‘kompromat’ on Trump which the latter should bear in mind in his dealings with them.
COMPANY INTELLIGENCE REPORT 2016/095 – July 19, 2016
RUSSIAN/US PRESIDENTIAL ELECTION: FURTHER INDICATIONS OF EXTENSIVE CONSPIRACY BETWEEN TRUMP’S CAMPAIGN TEAM AND THE KREMLIN
• Further evidence of extensive conspiracy between Trump’s campaign team and Kremlin, sanctioned at highest levels and involving Russian diplomatic staff based in the US.
• Trump associate admits Kremlin behind recent appearance of DNC e-mails on WikiLeaks, as means of maintaining plausible deniability.
• Agreed exchange of information established in both directions. Trump’s team using moles within the DNC and hackers in the US as well as outside in Russia. Putin motivated by fear and hatred of Hillary Clinton. Russians receiving intel from Trump’s team on Russian oligarchs and their families in the US.
• Mechanism for transmitting this intelligence involves ‘pension’ disbursements to Russian émigrés living in US as cover, using consular officials in New York, DC and Miami.
• Suggestions from source close to Trump and Manafort that Republican campaign team happy to have Russia as media bogeyman to mask more corrupt business ties to China and other emerging countries.
1. Speaking in confidence to a compatriot in late July 2016, Source E, an ethnic Russian close association of US presidential candidate Donald Trump, admitted that there was a well-developed conspiracy of cooperation between them and the Russian leadership. This was managed on the Trump side by the Republican candidate’s campaign manager, Paul Manafort, who was using foreign policy advisor Carter Page and others as intermediaries. The two sides had a mutual interest in defeating Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton, who President Putin apparently both hated and feared.
2. Inter alia [among other things], Source E acknowledged that the Russian regime had been behind the recent leak of embarrassing e-mail messages, emanating from the Democratic National Committee (DNC), to the WikiLeaks platform. The reason for using WikiLeaks was ‘plausible deniability’ and the operation had been conducted with the full knowledge and support of Trump and senior members of his campaign team. In return, the Trump team had agreed to sideline Russian intervention in Ukraine as a campaign issue and to raise US/NATO defense commitments in the Baltics and Eastern Europe to deflect attention away from Ukraine, a priority for Putin, who needed to cauterize the subject.
3. In the wider context of Trump campaign/Kremlin cooperation, Source E claimed that the intelligence network being used against Clinton comprised three elements. Firstly, there were agents/facilitators within the Democratic Party structure itself; secondly, Russian émigré and associated offensive cyber operators based in the US; and thirdly, state-sponsored operatives working in Russia. All three elements had played an important role to date. On the mechanism for rewarding relevant assets based in the US, and effecting a two-way flow of intelligence and other useful information, Source E claimed that the Russian diplomatic staff in key cities, such as New York, Washington DC and Miami, were using the émigré ‘pension’ distribution system as cover. The operation therefore depended on key people in the US Russian émigré community for its success. Tens of thousands of dollars were involved.
4. In terms of the intelligence flow from the Trump team to Russia, Source E reported that much of this concerned the activities of business oligarchs and their families’ activities and assets in the US, with which Putin and the Kremlin seemed preoccupied.
5. Commenting on the negative media publicity surrounding alleged Russian interference in the US election campaign in support of Trump, Source E said he understood that the Republican candidate and his team were relatively relaxed about this because it deflected media and the Democrat’s attention away from Trump’s business dealings in China and other emerging markets. Unlike in Russia, these were substantial and involved payment of large bribes and kickbacks which, were they to become public, would be potentially very damaging to their campaign.
6. Finally, regarding Trump’s claimed minimal investment profile in Russia, a separate source with direct knowledge said ths had not been for want of trying. Trump’s previous efforts had including exploring the real estate sector in St. Petersburg as well as Moscow, but in the end Trump had had to settle for the use of extensive sexual services there from local prostitutes rather than business success.
COMPANY INTELLIGENCE REPORT 2016/097 – July 30, 2016
RUSSIA-US PRESIDENTIAL ELECTION: KREMLIN CONCERN THAT POLITICAL FALLOUT FROM DNC E-MAIL HACKING AFFAIR SPIRALLING OUT OF CONTROL
• Kremlin concerned that political fallout from DNC e-mail hacking operation is spiraling out of control. Extreme nervousness among Trump’s associates as result of negative media attention/accusations.
• Russians meanwhile keen to cool situation and maintain ‘plausible deniability’ of existing/ongoing pro-Trump and anti-Clinton operations. Therefore unlikely to be any ratcheting up of offensive plays in immediate future.
• Source close to Trump campaign, however, confirms regular exchange with Kremlin has existed for at least 8 years, including intelligence fed back to Russia on oligarchs’ activities in US.
• Russians apparently have promised not to use ‘kompromat’ they hold on Trump as leverage, given high levels of voluntary cooperation forthcoming from his team.
1. Speaking in confidence to a trusted associate in late July 2016, a Russian émigré figure close to the Republican US presidential candidate Donald Trump’s campaign team commented on the fallout from the publicity surrounding the Democratic National Committee (DNC) e-mail hacking scandal. The émigré said there was a high level of anxiety within the Trump team as a result of various accusations leveled against them and indications from the Kremlin that President Putin and others in the leadership thought things had gone too far now and risked spiraling out of control.
2. Continuing on this theme, the émigré associate of Trump opined that the Kremlin wanted the situation to calm but for ‘plausible deniability’ to be maintained concerning its (extensive) pro-Trump and anti-Clinton operations. S/he therefore judged that it was unlikely these would be ratcheted up, at least for the time being.
3. However, in terms of established operation liaison between the Trump team and the Kremlin, the émigré confirmed that an intelligence exchange had been running between them for at least 8 years. Within this context, Putin’s priority requirement had been for intelligence on the activities, business and otherwise, in the US of leading Russian oligarchs and their families. Trump and his associates duly had obtained and supplied the Kremlin with this information.
4. Finally, the émigré said s/he understood the Kremlin had more intelligence on Clinton and her campaign but did not know the details or when or if it would be released. As far as ‘kompromat’ (compromising information) on Trump were concerned, although there was plenty of this, he understood the Kremlin had given word that it would not be deployed against the Republican presidential candidate given how helpful and cooperative his team had been over several years, and particularly of late.
COMPANY INTELLIGENCE REPORT 2016/100 – August 5, 2016
RUSSIA/USA: GROWING BACKLASH IN KREMLIN TO DNC HACKING AND TRUMP SUPPORT OPERATIONS
• Head of PA Ivanov laments Russian intervention in US presidential election and black PR against Clinton and the DNC. Vows not to supply intelligence to Kremlin PR operatives again. Advocates now sitting tight and denying everything.
• Presidential spokesman Peskov the main protagonist in Kremlin campaign to aid Trump and damage Clinton. He is now scared and fears being made scapegoat by leadership for backlash in US. Problem compounded by his botched intervention in recent Turkish crisis.
• Premier Medvedev’s office furious over DNC hacking and associated anti-Russian publicity. Want good relations with US and ability to travel there. Refusing to support or help cover up after Peskov.
• Talk now in Kremlin of Trump withdrawing from presidential race altogether, but this still largely wishful thinking by more liberal elements in Moscow.
1. Speaking in early August 2016, two well-placed and established Kremlin sources outlined the divisions and backlash in Moscow arising from the leaking of Democratic National Committee (DNC) e-mails and the wider pro-Trump operation being conducted in the US. Head of Presidential Administration Sergei Ivanov was angry at the recent turn of events. He believed the Kremlin “team” involved, led by presidential spokesman Dmitry Peskov, had gone too far in interfering in foreign affairs with their “elephant in a china shop black PR”. Ivanov claimed always to have opposed the handling and exploitation of intelligence by this PR “team”. Following the backlash against such foreign interference in US politics, Ivanov was advocating that the only sensible course of action now for the Russian leadership was to “sit tight and deny everything”.
2. Continuing on this theme, the source close to Ivanov reported that Peskov now was “scared shitless” that he would be scapegoated by Putin and held responsible for the backlash against Russian political interference in the US election. Ivanov was determined to stoop Peskov playing an independent role in relations to the US going forward and the source fully expected the presidential spokesman now to lay low. Peskov’s position was not helped by a botched attempt by him also to interfere in the recent failed coup in Turkey from a government relations (GR) perspective (no further details).
3. The extent of disquiet and division within Moscow caused by the backlash against Russian interference in the US election was underlined by a second source, close to premier Dmitry Medvedev (DAM). S/he said the Russian prime minister and his colleagues wanted to have good relations with the US, regardless of who was in power there, and not least so as to be able to travel there in the future, either officially or privately. They were openly refusing to cover up for Peskov and others involved in the DNC/Trump operations or to support his counter-attack of allegations against the USG for its alleged hacking of the Russian government and state agencies.
4. According to the first source, close to Ivanov, there had been talk in the Kremlin of Trump being forced to withdraw from the presidential race altogether as a result of recent events, ostensibly on grounds of his psychological state and unsuitability for high office. This might not be so bad for Russia in the circumstances but, in the view of the source, it remained largely wishful thinking on the part of those in the regime opposed to Peskov and his “botched” operations, at least for the time being.
COMPANY INTELLIGENCE REPORT 2016/101 – August 10, 2016
RUSSIA/US PRESIDENTIAL ELECTION: SENIOR KREMLIN FIGURE OUTLINES EVOLVING RUSSIAN TACTICS PRO-TRUMP, ANTI-CLINTON OPERATION
• Head of PA Ivanov assesses Kremlin intervention in US presidential election and outlines leadership thinking on operational way forward.
• No new leaks envisaged, as too politically risky, but rather further exploitation of (WikiLeaks) material already disseminated to exacerbate divisions.
• Educated US youth to be targeted as protest (against Clinton) and swing vote in attempt to turn them over to Trump.
• Russian leadership, including Putin, celebrating perceived success to date in splitting US hawks and elite.
• Kremlin engaging with several high-profile US players, including Stein, Page and (former DIA Director Michael Flynn), and funding their recent visits to Moscow.
1. Speaking in confidence to a close colleague in early August 2016, Head of the Russian Presidential Administration (PA), Sergei Ivanov, assessed the impact and results of Kremlin intervention in the US presidential election to date. Although most commentators believed that the Kremlin was behind the leaked DNC/Clinton e-mails, this remained technically deniable. Therefore the Russians would not risk their position for the time being with new leaked material, even to a third party like WikiLeaks. Rather the tactics would be to spread rumors and misinformation about the content of what had been leaked and make up new content.
2. Continuing on this theme, Ivanov said that the audience to be targeted by such operations was the educated youth in America as the PA assessed that there was still a chance they could be persuaded to vote for Republican candidate Donald Trump as a protest against the Washington establishment (in the form of Democratic candidate Hillary Clinton). The hope was that even if she won, as a result of this Clinton in power would be bogged down in working for internal reconciliation in the US, rather than being able to focus on foreign policy which would damage Russia’s interests. This also should give President Putin more room for maneuver in the run-up to Russia’s own presidential election in 2018.
3. Ivanov reported that although the Kremlin had underestimated the strength of US media and liberal reaction to the DNC hack and Trump’s links to Russia, Putin was generally satisfied with the progress of the anti-Clinton operation to date. He recently had a drink with Putin to mark this. In Ivanov’s view, the US had tried to divide the Russian elite with sanctions but failed, whilst they, by contrast, had succeeded in splitting the US hawks inimical to Russia and the Washington elite more generally, half of whom refused to endorse any presidential candidates as a result of Russian intervention.
4. Speaking separately, also in early August 2016, a Kremlin official involved in US relations commented on aspects of the Russian operation to date. Its goals had been threefold – asking sympathetic US actors how Moscow could help them; gathering relevant intelligence; and creating and disseminating compromising information (‘kompromat’). This had involved the Kremlin in supporting various US political figures, including funding indirectly their recent visits to Moscow. S/he named a delegation from Lyndon LaRouche, presidential candidate Jill Stein of the Green Party, Trump foreign policy advisor Carter Page, and former DIA Director Michael Flynn, in this regard as successful in terms of perceived outcomes.
COMPANY INTELLIGENCE REPORT 2016/102 – August 10, 2016
RUSSIA/US PRESIDNTAL ELECTION: REACTION IN TRUMP CAMP TO RECENT NEGATIVE PUBLICITY ABOUT RUSSIAN INTERFERENCE AND LIKELY RESULTING TACTICS GOING FORWARD.
• Trump campaign insider reports recent DNC e-mail leaks were aimed at switching Sanders (protest) voters away from Clinton and over to Trump.
• Admits Republican campaign underestimated resulting negative reaction from US liberals, elite and media and forced to change course as a result.
• Need now to turn the tables on Clinton’s use of Putin as bogeyman in election, although some resentment at Russian president’s perceived attempt to undermine USG and system over and above swinging presidential election.
1. Speaking in confidence on 9 August 2016, an ethnic Russian associate of Republican US presidential candidate Donald Trump discussed the reaction inside his camp, and revised tactics therein resulting from recent negative publicity concerning Moscow’s clandestine involvement in the campaign. Trump’s associate reported that the aim of leaking the DNC e-mails to WikiLeaks during the Democratic Convention had been to swing supporters of Bernie Sanders away from Hillary Clinton and across to Trump. These voters were perceived as activists and anti-status-quo and anti-establishment and in that regard sharing many features with the Trump campaign, including a visceral dislike of Hillary Clinton. This objective had been conceived and promoted, inter alia [among other things], by Trump’s foreign policy advisor Carter Page, who had discussed it directly with the ethnic Russian associate.
2. Continuing on this theme, the ethnic Russian associate of Trump assessed that the problem was that the Trump campaign had underestimated the strength of the negative reaction from liberals and especially the conservative elite to Russian interference. This was forcing a rethink and a likely change of tactics. The main objective in the short term was to check Democratic candidate Hillary Clinton’s successful exploitation of the Putin as bogeyman/Russian interference story to tarnish Trump and bolster her own (patriotic) credentials. The Trump campaign was focusing on tapping into support n the American television media to achieve this, as they reckoned this resource had been underused by them to date.
3. However, Trump’s associate also admitted that there as a fair amount of anger and resentment within the Republican candidate’s team at what was perceived by Putin as going beyond the objective of weakening Clinton and bolstering Trump, by attempting to exploit the situation to undermine the US government and democratic system more generally. It was unclear at present how this aspect of the situation would play out in the weeks to come.
COMPANY INTELLIGENCE REPORT 2016/105 – August 22, 2016
RUSSIA/UKRAINE: THE DEMISE OF TRUMP’S CAMPAIGN MANAGER PAUL MANAFORT
• Ex-Ukrainian President Yanukovych confides directly to Putin that he authorized kick-back payments to Manafort, as alleged in Western media. Assures Russian President, however, there is no documentary/evidence trail.
• Putin and Russian leadership remain worried, however, and skeptical that Yanukovych has fully covered the traces of these payments to Trump’s former campaign manager.
• Close associate of Trump explains reasoning behind Manafort’s recent resignation. Ukraine revelations played part but others wanted Manafort out for various reasons, especially Lewandowski, who remains influential.
1. Speaking in late August 2016, in the immediate aftermath of Paul Manafort’s resignation as campaign manager for US Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump, a well-placed Russian figure reported on a recent meeting between President Putin and ex-President Yanukovych of Ukraine. This had been held in secret on 15 August near Volgograd, Russia and the Western media revelations about Manafort and Ukraine had featured prominently on the agenda. Yanukovych had confided in Putin that he did authorize and order substantial kick-back payments to Manfort as alleged but sought to reassure him that there was no documentary trail left behind which could provide clear evidence of this.
2. Given Yanukovych’s (unimpressive) record in covering up his own corrupt tracks in the past, Putin and others in the Russian leadership were skeptical about the ex-Ukrainian president’s reassurances on this as relating to Manfort. They therefore still feared the scandal had legs, especially as Manfort had been commercially active in Ukraine right up to the time (in March 2016) when he joined Trump’s campaign team. For them, it therefore remained a point of potential vulnerability and embarrassment.
3. Speaking separately, also in late August 2016, an American political figure associated with Donald Trump and his campaign outlined the reasons behind Manfort’s recent demise. S/he said it was true that the Ukraine corruption revelations had played a part in this, but also several senior players close to Trump had wanted Manfort out, primarily to loosen his control on strategy and policy formulation. Of particular importance in this regard was Manafort’s predecessor as campaign manager, Corey Lewandowski, who hated Manafort personally and remained close to Trump, with whom he discussed the presidential campaign on a regular basis.
COMPANY INTELLIGENCE REPORT 2016/111 – September 14, 2016
RUSSIAN/US: KREMLIN FALLOUT FROM MEDIA EXPOSURE OF MOSCOW’S INTERFERENCE IN THE US PRESIDENTIAL CAMPAIGN
• Kremlin orders senior staff to remain silent in media and private allegations of Russian interference in US presidential campaign.
• Senior figure, however, confirms gist of allegations and reports Ivanov sacked as Head of Administration on account of giving Putin poor advice on issue. Vaino selected as his replacement partly because he was not involved in pro-Trump, anti-Clinton operation/s.
• Rissuans do have further ‘kompromat’ on Clinton (e-mails) and considering disseminating it after Duma (legislative) elections in late September. Presidential spokesman Peskov continues to lead on this.
• However, equally important is Kremlin objective to shift policy consensus favorably to Russia in US post-Obama whoever wins. Both presidential candidates’ opposition to TPP and TTIP viewed as a result in this respect.
• Senior Russian diplomat withdraws from Washington embassy on account of potential exposure in US presidential election operation/s.
1. Speaking in confidence to a trusted compatriot in mid-September 2016, a senior member of the Russian Presidential Administration (PA) commented on the political fallout from recent western media revelations about Moscow’s intervention in favor of Donald Trump and against Hillary Clinton in the US presidential election. The PA official reported the issue had become incredibly sensitive and that President Putin had issued direct orders that Kremlin and government insiders should not discuss it in public or even in private.
2. Despite this, the PA official confirmed, from direct knowledge, that the gist of allegations was true. Putin had been receiving conflicting advice on interfering from three separate and expert groups. On one side had been the Russian ambassador to the US, Sergi Kislyak, and the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, together with an independent and informal network run by presidential foreign policy advisor Yuri Ushakov (Kislyak’s predecessor in Washington) who had urged caution and the potential negative impact on Russia from the operation/s. On the other side was former PA Head Sergei Ivanov, backed by Russian Foreign Intelligence (SVR), who had advised Putin that the pro-Trump, anti-Clinton operation/s would be both effective and plausibly deniable with little blowback. The first group/s had been proven right and this had been the catalyst in Putin’s decision to sack Ivanov (unexpectedly) as PA Head in August. His successor, Anton Vaino, had been selected for the job partly because he had not been involved in the US presidential election operation/s.
3. Continuing on this theme, the senior PA official said the situation now was that the Kremlin had further ‘kompromat’ on candidate Clinton and had been considering releasing this via ‘plausibly deniable’ channels after the Duma (legislative) elections were out of the way in mid-September. There was, however, a growing train of thought and associated lobby arguing that the Russians could still make candidate Clinton look “weak and stupid” by provoking her into railing against Putin and Russia without the need to release more of her e-mails. Presidential Spokesman Dmitry Peskov remained a key figure in the operation, although any final decision on dissemination of further material would be taken by Putin himself.
4. The senior PA official also reported that a growing element in Moscow’s intervention in the US presidential election campaign was the objective of shifting the US political consensus in Russia’s perceived interests regardless of who won. It basically comprised of pushing candidate Clinton away from Obama’s policies. The best example of this was that both candidates now openly opposed the draft trade agreements, TPP and TTIP, which were assessed by Moscow as detrimental to Russian interests. Other issues where the Kremlin was looking to shift the US policy consensus were Ukraine and Syria. Overall, however, the presidential election was considered still too close to call.
5. Finally, speaking separately to the same compatriot, a senior Russian MFA official reported that, as a prophylactic measure, a leading Russian diplomat, Mikhail Kulagin, had been withdrawn from Washington at short notice because Moscow feared his heavy involvement in the US presidential election operation, including eh so-called veterans’ pensions ruse (reported previously), would be exposed in the media there. His replacement, Andrei Bondarev, however, was clean in this regard.
The substance of what was reported by the senior Russian PA official in paragraphs 1 and 2 above, including the reasons for Sergei Ivanov’s dismissal, was corroborated independently by a former top level Russian intelligence officer and Kremlin insider, also in mid-September.
COMPANY INTELLIGENCE REPORT 2016/112 – September 14, 2016
RUSSIA/US PRESIDENTIAL ELECTION: KREMLIN-ALPHA GROUP COOPERATION
• Top level Russian official confirms current closeness of Alpha Group-Putin relationship. Significant favors continue to be done in both directions and Fridman and Aven still giving informal advice to Putin, especially on the US. [Alfa Group (correct spelling) is one of Russia’s largest privately owned investment groups, and its founder, Mikhail Fridman, is the second wealthiest man in Russia. Petr Aven is one of its principles and the head of Alfa-Bank, Russia’s largest commercial bank.]
• Key intermediary in Putin-Alpha Group relationship identified as Oleg Govorun, currently head of a Presidential Administration department [Russia’s Minister of Regional Development], but throughout the 1990s, the Alpha Group executive who delivered illicit cash directly to Putin.
• Putin personally unbothered about Alpha’s current lack of investment in Russia but under pressure from colleagues over this and able to exploit it as lever over Alpha interlocutors.
1. Speaking to a trusted compatriot in mid-September 2016, a top-level Russian government official commented on the history and current state of relations between President Putin and the Alpha Group of businesses led by oligarchs Mickail Fridman, Petr Aven and German Khan. The Russian government figure reported that, although they had their ups and downs, the leading figures in Alpha currently were on very good terms with Putin. Significant favors continued to be done in both directions, primarily political ones for Putin and business/legal ones for Alpha. Also, Fridman and Aven continued to give informal advice to Putin on foreign policy, especially about the US where he distrusted advice given to him by officials.
2. Although Fridman recently med directly with Putin in Russia, much of the dialogue and business between them was mediated through a senior Presidential Administration official, Oleg Govorun, who currently headed the department therein responsible for Social Cooperation With the CIS [Commonwealth of Independent States]. Govorun was trusted by Putin and recently had accompanied him to Uzbekistan to pay respects at the tomb of former president Karimov. However, according to the top-level Russian government official, during the 1990s Govorun had been Head of Government Relations at Alpha Group and, in reality, the ‘driver’ and ‘bag carrier’ used by Firdman and Aven to deliver large amounts of illicit cash to the Russian president, at that time deputy Mayor of St. Petersburg. Give that and the continuing sensitivity of the Putin-Alpha relationship and need for plausible deniability, much of the contact between them was now indirect and entrusted to the relatively low-profile Govorun.
3. The top-level Russian government official described the Putin-Alpha relationship as both carrot and stick. Alpha ‘kompromat’ on Putin and his corrupt business activities from the 1990s, whilst although not personally overly bothered by Alpha’s failure to reinvest the proceeds of its TNK oil company sale into the Russian economy since, the Russian president was able to use pressure on this count from senior Kremlin colleagues as a lever on Fridman and Aven to make them do his political bidding.
COMPANY INTELLIGENCE REPORT 2016/113 – September 14, 2016
RUSSIA/US PRESIDENTIAL ELECTION: REPUBLICAN CANDIDATE TRUMP’S PRIOR ACTIVITIES IN ST. PETERSBURG.
• Two knowledgeable St. Petersburg sources claim Republican candidate Trump has paid bribes and engaged in sexual activities there but key witnesses silenced and evidence hard to obtain.
• Both believe Azeri business associate of Trump, Araz Agalarov, will know the details.
1. Speaking to a trusted compatriot in September 2016, two well-placed sources based in St. Petersburg, one in the political/business elite and the other involved in the local services and tourist industry, commented on Republican US presidential candidate Donald Trump’s prior activities in the city.
2. Both knew Trump had visited St. Petersburg on several occasions in the past and had been interested in doing business deals there involving real estate. The local business/political elite figure reported that Trump had paid bribes there to further his interests but very discreetly and only through affiliated companies, making it very hard to prove. The local services industry source reported that Trump had participated in sex parties in the city too, but that all direct witnesses to this recently had been ‘silenced’ – i.e. bribed or coerced to disappear.
3. The two St. Petersburg figures cited believed an Azeri business figure, Araz Agalarov (with offices in Baku and London), had been closely involved with Trump in Russia and would know most of the details of what the Republican presidential candidate had got up to there.
COMPANY INTELLIGENCE REPORT 2016/130 – October 12, 2016
RUSSIA: KREMLIN ASSESSMETN OF TRUMP AND RUSSIAN INTERFERENCE IN US PRESIDENTIAL ELECTION
• Buyer’s remorse sets in with Kremlin over Trump support operation in US presidential election. Russian leadership disappointed that leaded e-mails on Clinton have not had greater impact in campaign.
• Russians have injected further anti-Clinton material into the ‘plausibly deniable’ leaks pipeline which will continue to surface, but best material already in the public domain.
• Putin angry with senior officials who “over-promised” on Trump and further heads likely to roll as a result. Foreign Minister Lavrov may be next.
• Trump supported by Kremlin because seen as divisive, anti-establishment candidate who would shake up current international status quo in Russia’s favor. Lead on Trump operation moved from Foreign Minsitry to FSB and then to Presidential Administration where it now sits.
1. Speaking separately in confidence to a trusted compatriot in early October 2016, a senior Russian leadership figure and a Foreign Ministry official reported on recent developments concerning the Kremlin’s operation to support Republican candidate Donald Trump in the US presidential election. The senior leadership figure said that a degree of buyer’s remorse was settling in among Russian leaders concerning Trump. Putin and his colleagues were surprised and disappointed that leaks of Democratic candidate Hillary Clinton’s hacked e-mails had not had greater impact on the election.
2. Continuing on this theme, the senior leadership figure commented that a stream of further hacked Clinton material already had been injected by the Kremlin into compliant Western media outlets like WikiLeaks, which remained at least ‘plausibly deniable’, so the stream of these would continue through October and up to the election. However, s/he understood that the best material the Russians had was already out and there were no real game-changers to come.
3. The Russian Foreign Ministry official, how had direct access to the Trump support operation, reported that Putin was angry at his subordinate’s “over-promising” on the Republican candidate, both in terms of his chances and reliability and being able to cover and/or contain the US backlash over Kremlin interference. More heads, therefore, were likely to roll, with the MFA [Minister of Foreign Affairs] the easiest target. Ironically, despite his consistent urging of caution on the issue, Foreign Minister Lavrov could be the next one to go.
4. Asked to explain why Putin and the Kremlin had launched such an aggressive Trump support operation in the first place, the MFA official said that Russia needed to upset the liberal international status quo, including on Ukraine-related sanctions, which was seriously disadvantaging the country. Trump was viewed as divisive in disrupting the whole US political system, anti-establishment and a pragmatist with whom they could do business. As the Trump support operation had gained momentum, control of it had passed from the MFA to the FSB and then into the Presidential Administration where it remained, a reflection of its growing significance over time. There was still a view in the Kremlin that Trump would continue as a (divisive) political force even if he lost the presidency and may furn for and be elected to another public office.
COMPANY INTELLIGENCE REPORT 2016/134 – October 18, 2016
RUSSIA/US PRESIDENTIAL ELECTION: FURTHER DETAILS OF KREMLIN LIAISON WITH TRUMP CAMPAIGN
• Close associate of Sechin confirms his secret meeting in Moscow with Carter Page in July.
• Substance included offer of large stake in Rosneft in return for lifting sanctions on Russia. Page confirms this is Trump’s intention.
• Sechin continued to think Trump could win the presidency up to 17 October. Now looking to reorient his engagement with the US.
• Kremlin insider highlights importance of Trump’s lawyer, Michael Cohen, in covert relationship with Russia. Cohen’s wife is of Russian descent and her father a leading property developer in Moscow.
1. Speaking to a trusted compatriot in mid-October 2016, a close associate of Rosneft President and Putin ally Igor Sechen elaborated on the reported secret meeting between the latter and Carter Page, of US Republican presidential candidate’s foreign policy team, in Moscow in July 2016. The secret meeting had been confirmed to him/her by a senior member of Sechin’s staff, in addition to by the Rosneft President himself. It took place either 7 or 8 July, the same day or the one after Carter Page made a public speech to the Higher Economic School in Moscow.
2. In terms of the substance of their discussion, Sechin’s associate said that the Rosneft President was so keen to lift personal and corporate sanctions imposed on the company, that he offered Page/Trump’s associates the brokerage of up to a 19% (privatized) stake in Rosneft in return. Page expressed interest and confirmed that were Trump elected US president, then sanctions on Russia would be lifted.
3. According to Sechn’s close associate, the Rosneft President had continued to believe that Trump could win the US presidency right up to 17 October, when he assessed this was no longer possible. Sechin was keen to re-adapt accordingly and put feelers out to other business and political contacts in the US instead.
4. Speaking separately to the same compatriot in mid-October 2016, a Kremlin insider with direct access to the leadership confirmed that a key role in the secret Trump campaign/Kremlin relationship was being played by the Republican candidate’s personal lawyer Michael Cohen. [Redacted.]
5. Sechin’s associate opined that, although Page had not stated it explicitly to Sechin, he had clearly implied that, in terms of his comment on Trump’s intentin to lift Russian sanctions if elected president, he was speaking with the Republican candidate’s authority.
COMPANY INTELLIGENCE REPORT 2016/135 – October 19, 2016
RUSSIA/US PRESIDENTIAL ELECTION: THE IMPORTANT ROLE OF TRUMP LAWYER COHEN IN CAMPAIGN’S SECRET LIAISON WITH THE KREMLIN
• Kremlin insider outlines important role played by Trump’s lawyer Cohen in secret liaison with Russian leadership.
• Cohen engaged with Russians in trying to cover up scandal of Manafort and exposure of Page and meets Kremlin officials secretly in the EU in August in pursuit of this goal.
• These secret contacts continue but are now farmed out to trusted agents in Kremlin-linked institutes so as to remain ‘plausibly deniable’ for Russian regime.
• Further confirmation that sacking Ivanov and appointments of Vaino and Kiriyenko linked to need to cover up Kremlin’s Trump support operation.
1. Speaking in confidence to a longstanding compatriot friend in mid-October 2016, a Kremlin insider highlighted the importance of Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump’s lawyer, Michael Cohen, in the ongoing secret liaison relationship between the New York tycoon’s campaign and the Russian leadership. Cohen’s role had grown following the departure of Paul Manafort as Trump’s campaign manager in August 2016. Prior to that, Manafort had led for the Trump side.
2. According to the Kremlin insider, Cohen now was heavily engaged in a cover-up and damage-limitation operation in the attempt to prevent the full details of Trump’s relationship with Russia being exposed. In pursuit of this aim, Cohen had met secretly with several Russian Presidential Administration (PA) Legal Department officials in an EU country in August 2016. The immediate issues had been to contain further scandals involving Manafort’s commercial and political role in Russia/Ukraine and to limit the damage arising from exposure of former Trump foreign policy advisor Carter Page’s secret meetings with Russian leadership figures in Moscow the previous month. The overall objective had been to “sweep it all under the carpet and make sure no connections could be fully established or proven”.
3. Things had become “hotter” since August on the Trump-Russia track. According to the Kremlin insider, this had meant that direct contact between the Trump team and Russia had been farmed out by the Kremlin to trusted agents of influence working in pro-government policy institutes like that of Law and Comparative Jurisprudence. Cohen, however, continued to lead for the Trump team.
4. Referring back to the (surprise) sacking of Sergei Ivanov at Head of PA in August 2016, his replacement by Anton Vaino and the appointment of former Russian premier Sergei Kiriyenko to another senior position in the PA, the Kremlin insider repeated that this had been directly connected to the Trump support operation and the need to cover up now that it was being exposed by the USG and in the Western media.
The Kremlin insider was unsure of the identities of the PA officials with whom Cohen met secretly in August, or the exact date/s and locations of the meeting/s. There were significant internal security barriers being erectd in the PA as the Trump issue became more controversial and damaging. However, s/he continued to try to obtain these.
COMPANY INTELLIGENCE REPORT 2016/136 – October 20, 2016
RUSSIA/US PRESIDENTIAL ELECTION: FURTHER DETAILS OF TRUMP LAWYER COHEN’S SECRET LIAISON WITH THE KREMLIN
• Kremlin insider reports Trump lawyer Cohen’s secret meeting/s with Kremlin officials in August 2016 was/were held in Prague.
• Russian parastatal [owned or controlled wholly or partly by the government] organization Rossotrudnichestvo [under the jurisdiction of the Russian Ministry of Foreign Affairs, primarily responsible for administering civilian foreign aid] used as cover for this liaison and premises in Czech capital may have been used for the meeting/s.
• Pro-Putin leading Duma figure Kosachev reportedly involved as ‘plausibly deniable’ facilitator and may have participated in August meeting/s with Cohen.
1. Speaking to a compatriot and friend on 19 October 2016, a Kremlin insider provided further details of reported clandestine meeting/s between Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump’s lawyer, Michael Cohen and Kremlin representatives in August 2016. Although the communication between them had to be cryptic for security reasons, the Kremlin insider clearly indicated to his/her friend that the reported contact/s took place in Prague, Czech Republic.
2. Continuing on this theme, the Kremlin insider highlighted the importance of the Russian parastatal organization, Rossotrudnichestvo, in this contact between Trump campaign representative/s and Kremlin officials. Rossotrudnichestvo was being used as cover for this relationship and its office in Prague may well have been used to host the Cohen/Russian Presidential Administration (PA) meeting/s. It was considered a ‘plausibly deniable’ vehicle for this, whilst remaining entirely under Kremlin control.
3. The Kremlin insider went on to identify leading pro-Putin Duma figure Konstanti Kosachev (Head of the Foreign Relations Committee) and an important figure in the Trump campaign-Kremlin liaison operation. Koschev, also ‘plausibly deniable’, being part of the Russian legislature rather than the executive, had facilitated the contact in Prague and, by implication, may have attended the meeting/s with Cohen there in August.
We reported previously, in our Company Intelligence Report 2016/135 of 19 October 2016 from the same source, that Cohen met officials from the PA Legal Department clandestinely in an EU country in August 2016. This was in order to clean up the mess left behind of Western media revelations of Trump ex-campaign manager Manafort’s corrupt relationship with the former pro-Russian Yanukovych regime in Ukraine and Trump foreign policy advisor Carter Page’s secret meetings in Moscow with senior regime figures in July 2016. According to the Kremlin advisor, these meeting/s were originally scheduled for Cohen in Moscow but shifted to what was considered an operationally ‘soft’ EU country when it was judged too compromising for him to travel to the Russian capital.
COMPANY INTELLIGENCE REPORT 2016/166 – December 13, 2016
US/RUSSIA: FURTHER DETAILS OF SECRET DIALOGUE BETWEEN TRUMP CAMPAIGN TEAM, KREMLIN AND ASSOCIATED HACKERS IN PRAGUE
• Trump’s representative Cohen accompanied to Prague in August/September 2016 by 3 colleagues for secret discussions with Kremlin representatives and associated operators/hackers.
• Agenda included how to process deniable cash payments to operatives, contingency plans for covering up operations, and action in event of a Clinton election victory.
• Some further details of Russian representatives/operators involved, Romanian hackers employed, and use of Bulgaria as bolt hole [hiding place] to “lie low”.
• Anti-Clinton hackers and other operatives paid by both Trump team and Kremlin, but with ultimate loyalty to Head of PA Ivanov and his successors.
1. We reported previously (2016/135 and /136) on secret meeting/s held in Prague, Czech Republic in August 2016 between then Republican candidate Donald Trump’s representative Michael Cohen and his interlocutors from the Kremlin working under cover of Russian ‘NGO’ Rossotrudnichestvo.
2. [Redacted] provided further details of these meeting/s and associated anti-Clinton/Democratic Party operations. Cohen had been accompanied to Prague by three colleagues and the timing of the visit was either in the last week of August or the first week of September. One of their main Russian interlocutors was Oleg Solodukhin, operating under Rossotrudnichestvo cover. According to [redacted], the agenda comprised questions on how deniable cash payments were to be made to hackers who had worked in Europe under Kremlin direction against the Clinton campaign and various contingencies for covering up these operations and Moscow’s secret liaison with the Trump team more generally.
3. [Redacted] reported that over the period March-September 2016, a company called XBT/Webzilla and its affiliates had been using botnets and porn traffic to transmit viruses, plant bugs, steal data and conduct “altering operations” against the Democratic Party leadership. Entities linked to one Aleksei Gubarov were involved and he and another hacking expert, both recruited under duress by the FSB, Seva Kapsugovich, were significant players in this operation. In Prague, Cohen agreed on contingency plans for various scenarios to protect the operation, but in particular what was to be done in the event that Hillary Clinton won the presidency. It was important in this event that all cash payments owned were made quickly and discreetly and that cyber and other operators were stood down/able to go effectively to ground to cover their traces. (We reported earlier that the involvement of political operatives Paul Manafort and Carter Page in the secret Tump-Kremlin liaison had been exposed in the media in the run-up to Prague and that damage limitation of these were also discussed by Cohen with the Kremlin representatives.)
4. In terms of practical measures to be taken, it was agreed by the two sides in Prague to stand down various “Romanian hackers” (presumably based in their homeland or neighboring Eastern Europe) and that other operatives should head for a bolt-hole in Plovdiv, Bulgaria where they should “lay low”. On payments, Ivanov’s associate said that the operatives involved had been paid by both the Trump’s team and the Kremlin, though their orders and ultimate loyalty lay with Ivanov, as Head of the PA and thus ultimately responsible for the operation, and his designated successor/s after he was dismissed by President Putin in connection with the anti-Clinton operation mid-August.
by Robert Riversong: may be reproduced only with attribution for non-commercial purposes and a link to this page