Trump Intelligence Allegations THE DOSSIER

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Re: Trump Intelligence Allegations THE DOSSIER

Postby seemslikeadream » Sun Feb 25, 2018 11:53 am

Dr. Dena Grayson‏Verified account


DemocraticMemo says DOJ corroborated #SteeleDossier claims on CARTER PAGE:

- met Rosneft head IGOR SECHIN's aide offered brokerage fee for sale of Rosneft shares in exchange for lifting sanctions
- met Divyekin offered HRC kompromat & warned of TRUMP kompromat
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Dr. Dena Grayson

This is a literal SMOKING GUN Steele wrote in Oct'16 of a brokerage fee for the sale of 19% of #Rosneft shares in exchange for TRUMP lifting #sanctions.

*Just 2 months later*, Rosneft sold 19% of its shares + brokerage fee, some to unknown entities. Dr. Dena Grayson added,
https://twitter.com/TeaPainUSA
The only card he has left to play is his resignation
— Neal Katyal

Is minic a bhris béal duine a shrón

Russian/Siberian Agent school girl Maria (NRA) Butina pleads guilty to CONSPIRACY against the U.S. and is cooperating with prosecutors
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Re: Trump Intelligence Allegations THE DOSSIER

Postby seemslikeadream » Mon Mar 05, 2018 2:10 pm

Christopher Steele, the Man Behind the Trump Dossier

How the ex-spy tried to warn the world about Trump’s ties to Russia.

Jane Mayer
In January, after a long day at his London office, Christopher Steele, the former spy turned private investigator, was stepping off a commuter train in Farnham, where he lives, when one of his two phones rang. He’d been looking forward to dinner at home with his wife, and perhaps a glass of wine. It had been their dream to live in Farnham, a town in Surrey with a beautiful Georgian high street, where they could afford a house big enough to accommodate their four children, on nearly an acre of land. Steele, who is fifty-three, looked much like the other businessmen heading home, except for the fact that he kept his phones in a Faraday bag—a pouch, of military-tested double-grade fabric, designed to block signal detection.
A friend in Washington, D.C., was calling with bad news: two Republican senators, Lindsey Graham and Charles Grassley, had just referred Steele’s name to the Department of Justice, for a possible criminal investigation. They were accusing Steele—the author of a secret dossier that helped trigger the current federal investigation into President Donald Trump’s possible ties to Russia—of having lied to the very F.B.I. officers he’d alerted about his findings. The details of the criminal referral were classified, so Steele could not know the nature of the allegations, let alone rebut them, but they had something to do with his having misled the Bureau about contacts that he’d had with the press. For nearly thirty years, Steele had worked as a close ally of the United States, and he couldn’t imagine why anyone would believe that he had been deceptive. But lying to an F.B.I. officer is a felony, an offense that can be punished by up to five years in prison.
The accusations would only increase doubts about Steele’s reputation that had clung to him since BuzzFeed published the dossier, in January, 2017. The dossier painted a damning picture of collusion between Trump and Russia, suggesting that his campaign had “accepted a regular flow of intelligence from the Kremlin, including on his Democratic and other political rivals.” It also alleged that Russian officials had been “cultivating” Trump as an asset for five years, and had obtained leverage over him, in part by recording videos of him while he engaged in compromising sexual acts, including consorting with Moscow prostitutes who, at his request, urinated on a bed.
In the spring of 2016, Orbis Business Intelligence—a small investigative-research firm that Steele and a partner had founded, in 2009, after leaving M.I.6, Britain’s Secret Intelligence Service—had agreed to do opposition research on Trump’s murky relationship with Russia. Under the arrangement, Orbis was a subcontractor working for Fusion GPS, a private research firm in Washington. Fusion, in turn, had been contracted by a law firm, Perkins Coie, which represented both Hillary Clinton’s Presidential campaign and the Democratic National Committee. Several months after Steele signed the deal, he learned that, through this chain, his research was being jointly subsidized by the Clinton campaign and the D.N.C. In all, Steele was paid a hundred and sixty-eight thousand dollars for his work.
Steele had spent more than twenty years in M.I.6, most of it focussing on Russia. For three years, in the nineties, he spied in Moscow under diplomatic cover. Between 2006 and 2009, he ran the service’s Russia desk, at its headquarters, in London. He was fluent in Russian, and widely considered to be an expert on the country. He’d also advised on nation-building in Iraq. As a British citizen, however, he was not especially knowledgeable about American politics. Peter Fritsch, a co-founder at Fusion who has worked closely with Steele, said of him, “He’s a career public-service officer, and in England civil servants haven’t been drawn into politics in quite the same way they have here. He’s a little naïve about the public square.”
And so Steele, on that January night, was stunned to learn that U.S. politicians were calling him a criminal. He told Christopher Burrows, with whom he co-founded Orbis, that the sensation was “a feeling like vertigo.” Burrows, in his first public interview on the dossier controversy, recalled Steele telling him, “You have this thudding headache—you can’t think straight, you have no appetite, you feel ill.” Steele compared it to the disorientation that he had felt in 2009, when his first wife, Laura, had died, after a long illness, leaving him to care for their three young children.
That night, Burrows said, Steele and his second wife, Katherine, who have been married since 2012, sat in their living room, wondering what would become of them. Would they be financially ruined by legal costs? (In addition to the criminal referral in the U.S., a Russian businessman, Aleksej Gubarev, had filed a libel lawsuit against Steele, saying that the dossier had falsely accused his company of helping the Russian government hack into the Democratic Party’s internal e-mail system.) Would Steele end up in a U.S. federal penitentiary? Would a Putin emissary knife him in a dark alley somewhere?
In conversations with friends, Steele said he hoped that in five years he’d look back and laugh at the whole experience. But he tended toward pessimism. No matter how the drama turned out, “I will take this to my grave,” he often predicted. A longtime friend of Steele’s pointed out to me that Steele was in a singularly unenviable predicament. The dossier had infuriated both Vladimir Putin and Donald Trump by divulging allegedly corrupt dealings between them. “You’ve got oligarchs running both superpowers,” the friend said. “And, incredibly, they both hate this same guy.”
Legal experts soon assured Steele that the criminal referral was merely a political stunt. Nevertheless, it marked a tense new phase in the investigation into Trump’s alleged ties to Russia. The initial bipartisan support in Congress for a serious inquiry into foreign meddling in America’s democracy had given way to a partisan brawl. Trump’s defenders argued that Steele was not a whistle-blower but a villain—a dishonest Clinton apparatchik who had collaborated with American intelligence and law-enforcement officials to fabricate false charges against Trump and his associates, in a dastardly attempt to nullify the 2016 election. According to this story line, it was not the President who needed to be investigated but the investigators themselves, starting with Steele. “They’re trying to take down the whole intelligence community!” Steele exclaimed one day to friends. “And they’re using me as the battering ram to do it.”
It was not the first time that a congressional investigation had been used as a tool for destroying someone’s reputation. Whenever a scandal hit Washington, opponents used subpoenas, classified evidence, and theatrical public hearings to spread innuendo, confusion, and lies. Senators Grassley and Graham declined to be interviewed for this article, but in January Grassley, the chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, gave a speech on the Senate floor defending the criminal referral. He noted that Steele had drawn on Russian contacts to amass the dossier. “Who was actually colluding with Russians?” Grassley asked. “It’s becoming more clear.”
Democratic members of the committee, who had not been consulted by Republicans about the criminal referral against Steele, were enraged. The California senator Dianne Feinstein, the ranking minority member on the committee, declared that the Republicans’ goals were “undermining the F.B.I. and Special Counsel Mueller’s investigation” and “deflecting attention” from it. Feinstein said that the criminal referral provided no evidence that Steele had lied, and, she added, “not a single revelation in the Steele dossier has been refuted.”
Sheldon Whitehouse, a Democratic senator from Rhode Island, is a former prosecutor who also serves on the Judiciary Committee. “To impeach Steele’s dossier is to impeach Mueller’s investigation,” he told me. “It’s to recast the focus back on Hillary.” The Republicans’ aim, he believed, was to “create a false narrative saying this is all a political witch hunt.”
Indeed, on January 18th, the staff of Devin Nunes, the Republican chairman of the House Intelligence Committee, produced a report purporting to show that the real conspiracy revolved around Hillary Clinton. “The truth,” Nunes said, is that Clinton “colluded with the Russians to get dirt on Trump, to feed it to the F.B.I. to open up an investigation into the other campaign.” Glenn Kessler, who writes the nonpartisan Fact Checker blog at the Washington Post, awarded Nunes’s statement four Pinocchios—his rating for an outright lie. “There is no evidence that Clinton was involved in Steele’s reports or worked with Russian entities to feed information to Steele,” Kessler wrote.
Nonetheless, conservative talk-show hosts amplified Nunes’s message. On Fox News, Tucker Carlson denounced Steele as “an intense partisan with passionately left-wing views about American politics,” and said, inaccurately, that his “sloppy and reckless” research “appears to form the basis” of the entire Mueller investigation. Sean Hannity charged that Steele’s dossier was “claptrap” filled with “Russian lies” that were intended to poison “our own intelligence and law-enforcement network” against Trump. The editorial page of the Wall Street Journal accused Steele of turning the F.B.I. into “a tool of anti-Trump political actors.” Rush Limbaugh warned his radio listeners, “The battle is between people like us and the Deep State who are trying to keep hidden what they did.”
President Trump had mocked “the dirty dossier,” suggesting that a “failed spy” had relied on “made-up facts by sleazebag political operatives.” But on February 8th the President denounced Steele by name for the first time. “Steele of fraudulent Dossier fame,” he tweeted, was “all tied into Crooked Hillary.”
Two days later, Burrows, of Orbis, was at his home, in Winchester, southwest of London, struggling to express to me how odd and disturbing it was to have his business partner targeted by the President of the United States. A tight-lipped fifty-nine-year-old who is conservative in politics and in manner, Burrows, like Steele, had spent decades as a British intelligence officer. “This whole thing has been quite surreal,” he said. “We are being made into a political football, in U.S. terms, which we really regret. Chris is being accused of being the heart of some Deep State conspiracy, and he’s not even in your state.”
Steele’s lawyers have advised him not to speak publicly about the controversy, and, because he is a former intelligence officer, much of his life must remain secret. His accusers know this, and, as Senator Whitehouse explained, “they are using selective declassification as a tactic—they use declassified information to tell their side, and then the rebuttal is classified.” Both the criminal referral and Nunes’s report used secret evidence to malign Steele while providing no means for his defenders to respond without breaching national-security secrets. But interviews with Steele’s friends, colleagues, and business associates tell a very different story about how a British citizen became enmeshed in one of America’s most consequential political battles.
Steele was born in 1964 in Aden, then the capital of Yemen. His father worked for the U.K.’s national weather service, and had postings overseas and in Great Britain. Steele’s family was middle class, but its roots were blue-collar: one of Steele’s grandfathers was a Welsh coal miner. An outstanding student, Steele was accepted at Cambridge University in 1982. He soon set his sights on becoming the president of the Cambridge Union, the prestigious debating society. It is such a common path for ambitious future leaders that, according to one former member, its motto should be “The Egos Have Landed.” Getting elected president requires shrewd political skills, and Steele secured the position, in part, by muscling the university newspaper, for which he had been writing, into endorsing his candidacy. His jockeying created enemies. One anonymous rival recently told the Daily Mail that Steele used to be a “little creep.”
Steele was a middle-of-the-road Labour Party supporter, and at the Cambridge Union his allies, known as the Anti-Establishment Faction, were state-schooled, middle-class students. Steele’s camp competed against a blue-blooded Establishment Faction and a right-wing Libertarian Faction. His longtime friend, who was part of a like-minded society at Oxford, said, “Almost all of us had come from less posh families, and suffered a bit from the impostor syndrome that made us doubt we belonged there, so we worked many times harder to prove ourselves.” He recalled Steele as an “astoundingly diligent” student with “huge integrity,” adding, “He just puts the bit in his teeth and charges the hill. He’s almost like a cyborg.”
Graham Davies, now a well-known public-speaking coach in the U.K., became friends with Steele in the Cambridge Union. He described him as “ultra low-key but ultra high-intensity,” adding, “He’s a very quiet guy who listens more than he talks, which made him stand out.” Davies went on, “Most of us like a bit of the spotlight, but Chris has always been the opposite. That’s been part of his integrity. He’s quietly in control.” Davies, who is a conservative, told me that Steele has many conservative friends. (Steele supported the Labour government of Tony Blair until the Iraq War, but he voted for a local Conservative official in his home county.) “He’s not an ideologue,” Davies said. “He’s got his political views, but he’s a pragmatic thinker. Fairness, integrity, and truth, for him, trump any ideology.”
Steele is said to be the first president of the Cambridge Union to invite a member of the Palestine Liberation Organization to speak. And he presided over numerous high-profile political debates, including one in which the proposition that President Ronald Reagan’s foreign policies had hurt the U.K. carried the house.
Tellingly, none of Steele’s old friends seem to remember the first time they met him. Of average height and build, with pleasant features, a clean-cut style of dress, and a cool, neutral gaze, he didn’t draw attention to himself. He was a natural candidate to become professionally unnoticeable. Davies, who dines several times a year with Steele and other schoolmates, said, “He’s more low-key than Smiley”—the John le Carré character. But, he noted, whenever Steele took on a task “he was like a terrier with a bone—when something needs investigating, he applies the most intense intellect I’ve ever seen.”
Steele graduated in 1986, with a degree in social and political science, and initially thought that he might go into journalism or the law. One day, though, he answered a newspaper ad seeking people interested in working abroad. The advertiser turned out to be M.I.6, which, after a battery of tests, recruited Steele into its Russian-language program. By the time he was in his mid-twenties he was living in Moscow.
Steele worked out of the British Embassy for M.I.6, under diplomatic cover. His years in Moscow, 1990 to 1993, were among the most dramatic in Russian history, a period that included the collapse of the Communist Party; nationalist uprisings in Ukraine, the Caucasus, and the Baltic states; and the dissolution of the Soviet Union. Boris Yeltsin gained ultimate power in Russia, and a moment of democratic promise faded as the K.G.B.—now called the F.S.B.—reasserted its influence, oligarchs snapped up state assets, and nationalist political forces began to emerge. Vladimir Putin, a K.G.B. operative returning from East Germany, reinvented himself in the shadowy world of St. Petersburg politics. By the time Steele left the country, optimism was souring, and a politics of resentment—against the oligarchs, against an increasing gap between rich and poor, and against the West—was taking hold.
After leaving Moscow, Steele was assigned an undercover posting with the British Embassy in Paris, but he and a hundred and sixteen other British spies had their cover blown by an anonymously published list. Steele came in from the cold and returned to London, and in 2006 he began running its Russia desk, growing increasingly pessimistic about the direction of the Russian Federation.
Steele’s already dim view of the Kremlin darkened in November, 2006, when Alexander Litvinenko, a former Russian K.G.B. officer and a Putin critic who had been recruited by M.I.6, suffered an agonizing death in a London hospital, after drinking a cup of tea poisoned with radioactive polonium-210. Moscow had evidently sanctioned a brazen murder in his own country. Steele was put in charge of M.I.6’s investigation. Authorities initially planned to indict one suspect in the murder, but Steele’s investigative work persuaded them to indict a second suspect as well. Nine years later, the U.K.’s official inquiry report was finally released, and it confirmed Steele’s view: the murder was an operation by the F.S.B., and it was “probably approved” by Vladimir Putin.
Steele has never commented on the case, or on any other aspect of his intelligence work, but Richard Dearlove, who led M.I.6 from 1999 to 2004, has described his reputation as “superb.” A former senior officer recalls him as “a Russia-area expert whose knowledge I and others respected—he was very careful, and very savvy.” Another former M.I.6 officer described him as having a “Marmite” personality—a reference to the salty British spread, which people either love or hate. He suggested that Steele didn’t appear to be “going places in the service,” noting that, after the Cold War, Russia had become a backwater at M.I.6. But he acknowledged that Steele “knew Russia well,” and that running the Russia desk was “a proper job that you don’t give to an idiot.”
The British Secret Intelligence Service is highly regarded by the United States, particularly for its ability to harvest information from face-to-face sources, rather than from signals intelligence, such as electronic surveillance, as the U.S. often does. British and American intelligence services work closely together, and, while Steele was at M.I.6, British intelligence was often included in the U.S. President’s daily-briefing reports. In 2008, Michael Hayden, the C.I.A. director, visited the U.K., and Steele briefed him on Russian developments. The following year, President Obama visited the U.K., and was briefed on a report that Steele had written about Russia. Steve Hall, a former chief of the C.I.A.’s Central Eurasia Division, which includes Russia, the former Soviet states, and the Balkans, told me, “M.I.6 is second only perhaps to the U.S. in its ability to collect intelligence from Russia.” He added, “We’ve always coördinated closely with them because they did such a great job. We’re playing in the Yankee Stadium of espionage here. This isn’t Guatemala.”
In 2008, Steele informed M.I.6 that he planned to leave the service and open a commercial intelligence firm with Burrows. He left in good standing, but his exit was hastened, because M.I.6 regarded his plans as a potential conflict of interest. Launching the business was a risky move: London was filled with companies run by former intelligence officers selling their contacts and inside knowledge. To differentiate itself, Orbis, which opened its office in Mayfair, attempted to exploit Steele’s Russian expertise. The strategy appears to have paid off. According to people with knowledge of the company, Orbis grossed approximately twenty million dollars in its first nine years. Steele now drives a Land Rover Discovery Sport, and belongs to a golf club. He also runs a bit, but the feats that kept him in shape while he was a spy—he ran six marathons and twenty-five half-marathons, and competed in a dozen Olympic-length triathlon events—have been replaced by the carrying of a briefcase. His free time is devoted largely to his family, which includes three cats, one of whom not long ago replicated the most infamous allegation in the Steele dossier by peeing on a family member’s bed.
Orbis’s clients are mostly businesses or law firms representing corporations. Burrows said that although the company has fewer than ten full-time employees, “we’re a bit like the bridge on the Starship Enterprise—we’re a small group but we manage an enormous ship.” To serve its clients, Orbis employs dozens of confidential “collectors” around the world, whom it pays as contract associates. Some of the collectors are private investigators at smaller firms; others are investigative reporters or highly placed experts in strategically useful jobs. Depending on the task and the length of engagement, the fee for collectors can be as much as two thousand dollars a day. The collectors harvest intelligence from a much larger network of unpaid sources, some of whom don’t even realize they are being treated as informants. These sources occasionally receive favors—such as help in getting their children into Western schools—but money doesn’t change hands, because it could risk violating laws against, say, bribing government officials or insider trading. Paying sources might also encourage them to embellish.
Steele has not been to Russia, or visited any former Soviet states, since 2009. Unlike some of his former M.I.6 colleagues, he has not been declared persona non grata by Putin’s regime, but, in 2012, an Orbis informant quoted an F.S.B. agent describing him as “an enemy of Mother Russia.” Steele concluded that it would be difficult for him to work in the country unnoticed. The firm guards the identities of its sources, but it’s clear that many Russian contacts can be interviewed elsewhere, and London is the center of the post-Soviet Russian diaspora.
Orbis often performs anti-corruption investigations for clients attempting internal reviews, and helps hedge funds and other financial companies perform due diligence or obtain strategic information. One Orbis client who agreed to talk to me, a Western businessman with interests in Russia and Ukraine, described Steele to me as “very efficient, very professional, and very credible.” He said that his company had successfully cross-checked Steele’s research with other people, adding, “I don’t know anyone who’s been critical of his work. His reports are very good. It’s an absolute no-brainer that he’s just a political target. They’re trying to shoot the messenger.”
Orbis promises confidentiality, and releases no information on its clientele. Some of its purported clients, such as a major Western oil company, are conventional corporations. Others are controversial, including a London law firm representing the interests of Oleg Deripaska, the billionaire victor of Russia’s aluminum wars, a notoriously violent battle. He has been described as Putin’s favorite oligarch. Steele’s possible financial ties to Deripaska recently prompted Senator Grassley to demand more information from the London law firm. If a financial trail between Deripaska and Orbis can be established, it is likely to raise even more questions about Steele, because Deripaska has already figured in the Russia investigation, in an unsavory light. Paul Manafort, Trump’s former campaign manager, has been accused of defrauding Deripaska’s company while working for it in Ukraine. (Manafort has been indicted by Special Counsel Robert Mueller on charges of money laundering and other financial crimes. He has pleaded not guilty.) Even if Steele’s rumored work for Deripaska is aboveboard, it illustrates the transition that he has made from the world of government service to the ethically gray world of commerce. Oligarchs battling other oligarchs provide some of the most lucrative work for investigators with expertise in Russia. Orbis maintains that, as long as its activities are limited to providing litigation support for Western law firms acting in Western courts, it is helping to settle disputes in a more civilized way than they would be in Russia. But Steele stepped into a murkier realm when he left M.I.6.
Republican claims to the contrary, Steele’s interest in Trump did not spring from his work for the Clinton campaign. He ran across Trump’s name almost as soon as he went into private business, many years before the 2016 election. Two of his earliest cases at Orbis involved investigating international crime rings whose leaders, coincidentally, were based in New York’s Trump Tower.
Steele’s first client after leaving M.I.6 was England’s Football Association, which hoped to host the World Cup in 2018, but suspected dirty dealings by the governing body, fifa. England lost out in its bid to Russia, and Steele determined that the Kremlin had rigged the process with bribes. According to Ken Bensinger’s “Red Card,” an upcoming book about the scandal, “one of Steele’s best sources” informed him that the Deputy Prime Minister, Igor Sechin—now the C.E.O. of the Russian state-controlled oil giant Rosneft—is suspected of having travelled to Qatar “to swap World Cup votes.”
Steele appears to have spoken anonymously to the Sunday Times of London about the case. An “ex-M.I.6 source” who investigated the bidding process told the paper, “The key thing with Russia was six months before the bid, it got to the point where the country feared the humiliation of being beaten and had to do something. . . . Putin dragged in all sorts of capabilities.” He added, “Don’t expect me or anyone else to produce a document with Putin’s signature saying ‘Please, X, bribe Y with this amount in this way.’ He’s not going to do that.”
Steele might have been expected to move on once his investigation of the bidding was concluded. But he had discovered that the corruption at fifa was global, and he felt that it should be addressed. The only organization that could handle an investigation of such scope, he felt, was the F.B.I. In 2011, Steele contacted an American agent he’d met who headed the Bureau’s division for serious crimes in Eurasia. Steele introduced him to his sources, who proved essential to the ensuing investigation. In 2015, the Justice Department indicted fourteen people in connection with a hundred and fifty million dollars in bribes and kickbacks. One of them was Chuck Blazer, a top fifa official who had embezzled a fortune from the organization and became an informant for the F.B.I. Blazer had an eighteen-thousand-dollar-per-month apartment in Trump Tower, a few floors down from Trump’s residence.
Nobody had alleged that Trump knew of any fifa crimes, but Steele soon came across Trump Tower again. Several years ago, the F.B.I. hired Steele to help crack an international gambling and money-laundering ring purportedly run by a suspected Russian organized-crime figure named Alimzhan Tokhtakhounov. The syndicate was based in an apartment in Trump Tower. Eventually, federal officials indicted more than thirty co-conspirators for financial crimes. Tokhtakhounov, though, eluded arrest, becoming a fugitive. Interpol issued a “red notice” calling for his arrest. But, in the fall of 2013, he showed up at the Miss Universe contest in Moscow—and sat near the pageant’s owner, Donald Trump.
“It was as if all criminal roads led to Trump Tower,” Steele told friends.
Burrows told me that he and Steele made a pact when they left M.I.6: “We both agreed it was a duty to alert U.K. and allied authorities if we came across anything with national-security dimensions. It comes from a very long government service. We still have that ethos of wanting to do the right thing by our authorities.”
By working with law-enforcement authorities on investigations, Steele has kept a foot in his former life. Some critics have questioned the propriety of this. Lindsey Graham recently argued, in the Washington Post, “You can be an F.B.I. informant. You can be a political operative. But you can’t be both, particularly at the same time.”
Burrows said that on several occasions Orbis had warned authorities about major security threats. Three years ago, a trusted Middle Eastern source told Orbis that a group of isis militants were using the flow of refugees from Syria to infiltrate Europe. Orbis shared the information with associates who relayed the intelligence to German security officials. Several months later, when a concert hall in Paris, the Bataclan, was attacked by terrorists, Burrows and Steele felt remorse at not having notified French authorities as well. When Steele took his suspicions about Trump to the F.B.I. in the summer of 2016, it was in keeping with Orbis protocol, rather than a politically driven aberration.
Even before Steele became involved in the U.S. Presidential campaign, he was convinced that the Kremlin was interfering in Western elections. In April of 2016, not long before he took on the Fusion assignment, he finished a secret investigation, which he called Project Charlemagne, for a private client. It involved a survey of Russian interference in the politics of four members of the European Union—France, Italy, the United Kingdom, and Germany—along with Turkey, a candidate for membership. The report chronicles persistent, aggressive political interference by the Kremlin: social-media warfare aimed at inflaming fear and prejudice, and “opaque financial support” given to favored politicians in the form of bank loans, gifts, and other kinds of support. The report discusses the Kremlin’s entanglement with the former Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi and the French right-wing leader Marine Le Pen. (Le Pen and Berlusconi deny having had such ties.) It also suggests that Russian aid was likely given to lesser-known right-wing nationalists in the United Kingdom and elsewhere. The Kremlin’s long-term aim, the report concludes, was to boost extremist groups and politicians at the expense of Europe’s liberal democracies. The more immediate goal was to “destroy” the E.U., in order to end the punishing economic sanctions that the E.U. and the U.S. had imposed on Russia after its 2014 political and military interference in Ukraine.
Although the report’s language was dry, and many of the details familiar to anyone who had been watching Russia closely, Project Charlemagne was the equivalent of a flashing red light. It warned that Russian intelligence services were becoming more strategic and increasingly disruptive. Russian interference in foreign elections, it cautioned, was only “likely to grow in size and reach over time.”
In the spring of 2016, Steele got a call from Glenn Simpson, a former investigative reporter for the Wall Street Journal who, in 2011, had left journalism to co-found Fusion GPS. Simpson was hoping that Steele could help Fusion follow some difficult leads on Trump’s ties to Russia. Simpson said that he was working for a law firm, but didn’t name the ultimate client.
The funding for the project originally came from an organization financed by the New York investor Paul Singer, a Republican who disliked Trump. But, after it became clear that Trump would win the Republican nomination, Singer dropped out. At that point, Fusion persuaded Marc Elias, the general counsel for the Clinton campaign, to subsidize the unfinished research. This bipartisan funding history belies the argument that the research was corrupted by its sponsorship.
Steele and Simpson had previously worked together, and they shared a mutual fascination with Russian oligarchs and international organized crime. They had symbiotic approaches. Fusion focussed on open-source research—mind-numbing dives into the fine print of public records. Steele’s specialty was gathering intelligence from informed sources, many of them Russian.
The dossier alleges that Putin backed Donald Trump over Hillary Clinton in order to “sow discord and disunity” in America.
Illustration by Cristiana Couceiro; photographs by Alexei Nikolsky / AFP / Getty (man); Melina Mara / The Washington Post / Getty (woman); Frank Lukasseck / Getty (binoculars)
One question particularly gnawed at Simpson. Why had Trump repeatedly gone to Russia in search of business, yet returned empty-handed? Steele was tantalized, and took the job, thinking that he’d find evidence of a few dodgy deals, and not much else. He evidently didn’t consider the danger of poking into a Presidential candidate’s darkest secrets. “He’s just got blinkers,” Steele’s longtime friend told me. “He doesn’t put his head in the oven so much as not see the oven.”
Within a few weeks, two or three of Steele’s long-standing collectors came back with reports drawn from Orbis’s larger network of sources. Steele looked at the material and, according to people familiar with the matter, asked himself, “Oh, my God—what is this?” He called in Burrows, who was normally unflappable. Burrows realized that they had a problem. As Simpson later put it, “We threw out a line in the water, and Moby-Dick came back.”
Steele’s sources claimed that the F.S.B. could easily blackmail Trump, in part because it had videos of him engaging in “perverted sexual acts” in Russia. The sources said that when Trump had stayed in the Presidential suite of Moscow’s Ritz-Carlton hotel, in 2013, he had paid “a number of prostitutes to perform a ‘golden showers’ (urination) show in front of him,” thereby defiling a bed that Barack and Michelle Obama had slept in during a state visit. The allegation was attributed to four sources, but their reports were secondhand—nobody had witnessed the event or tracked down a prostitute, and one spoke generally about “embarrassing material.” Two sources were unconnected to the others, but the remaining two could have spoken to each other. In the reports Steele had collected, the names of the sources were omitted, but they were described as “a former top-level Russian intelligence officer still active inside the Kremlin,” a “member of the staff at the hotel,” a “female staffer at the hotel when Trump had stayed there,” and “a close associate of Trump who had organized and managed his recent trips to Moscow.”
More significant, in hindsight, than the sexual details were claims that the Kremlin and Trump were politically colluding in the 2016 campaign. The Russians were described as having cultivated Trump and traded favors with him “for at least 5 years.” Putin was described as backing Trump in order to “sow discord and disunity both within the U.S.” and within the transatlantic alliance. The report claimed that, although Trump had not signed any real-estate-development deals, he and his top associates had repeatedly accepted intelligence from the Kremlin on Hillary Clinton and other political rivals. The allegations were astounding—and improbable. They could constitute treason even if they were only partly true.
According to people familiar with the matter, as Steele began to assemble the first of seventeen memos, which became the dossier, Burrows expressed reservations about including the golden-showers allegation. He had a cautious temperament, and worried about the impact that the sensational item might have. But Steele argued that it would be dishonest and distorting to cherry-pick details, and that the possibility of a potential American President being subject to blackmail was too important to hide. “That’s classic Steele,” his longtime friend told me. “He’s so straight.”
In a fateful decision, Steele chose to include everything. People familiar with the matter say that Steele knew he could either shred the incendiary information or carry on. If he kept investigating, and then alerted officials who he thought should know about his findings, he feared that his life—and, indeed, the life of anyone who touched the dossier—would never be the same.
At the time, Steele figured that almost nobody would ever see the raw intelligence. The credibility of Steele’s dossier has been much debated, but few realize that it was a compilation of contemporaneous interviews rather than a finished product. Orbis was just a subcontractor, and Steele and Burrows reasoned that Fusion could, if it wished, process the findings into an edited report for the ultimate client. So Orbis left it up to Fusion to make the judgment calls about what to leave in, and to decide whether to add caveats and source notes of the kind that accompany most government intelligence reports.
John Sipher spent twenty-eight years as a clandestine officer in the C.I.A., and ran the agency’s Russia program before retiring, in 2014. He said of Steele’s memos, “This is source material, not expert opinion.” Sipher has described the dossier as “generally credible,” although not correct in every detail. He said, “People have misunderstood that it’s a collection of dots, not a connecting of the dots. But it provided the first narrative saying what Russia might be up to.” Alexander Vershbow, a U.S. Ambassador to Russia under George W. Bush, told me, “In intelligence, you evaluate your sources as best you can, but it’s not like journalism, where you try to get more than one source to confirm something. In the intelligence business, you don’t pretend you’re a hundred per cent accurate. If you’re seventy or eighty per cent accurate, that makes you one of the best.”
On June 24, 2016, Steele’s fifty-second birthday, Simpson called, asking him to submit the dossier. The previous day, the U.K. had voted to withdraw from the E.U., and Steele was feeling wretched about it. Few had thought that Brexit was possible. An upset victory by Trump no longer seemed out of the question. Steele was so nervous about maintaining secrecy and protecting his sources that he sent a courier by plane to Washington to hand-deliver a copy of the dossier. The courier’s copy left the sources redacted, providing instead descriptions of them that enabled Fusion to assess their basic credibility. Steele feared that, for some of his Russian sources, exposure would be a death sentence.
Steele also felt a duty to get the information to the F.B.I. Although Trump has tweeted that the dossier was “all cooked up by Hillary Clinton,” Steele approached the Bureau on his own. According to Simpson’s sworn testimony to the House Intelligence Committee, Steele told him in June, 2016, that he wanted to alert the U.S. government, and explained, “I’m a former intelligence officer, and we’re your closest ally.” Simpson testified that he asked to think about it for a few days; when Steele brought it up again, Simpson relented. As Simpson told the Senate Judiciary Committee, “Let’s be clear. This was not considered by me to be part of the work we were doing. This was like you’re driving to work and you see something happen and you call 911.” Steele, he said, felt “professionally obligated to do it.” Simpson went along, he testified, because Steele was the “national-security expert,” whereas he was merely “an ex-journalist.”
The Pulitzer Prize-winning historian David Garrow has questioned Steele’s motives in the Wall Street Journal, calling him a “paid operative” spreading “partisan gossip.” He told me that Steele’s whistle-blowing seemed “self-dramatizing,” adding, “We see Steele viewing himself as a historically important person. He believes he has unique knowledge that he must warn the world about.” As a historian who has written critically about the F.B.I.’s persecution of Martin Luther King, Jr., Garrow is troubled by Steele’s zealousness. “In this secret-agent world, there’s a desire to maximize their importance,” Garrow said. “It’s as if all these guys wanted to play themselves in the movies.”

But Mark Medish, a former director of Russian affairs at the National Security Council, told me that “if Steele had not shared his findings, he might have been accused of dereliction or a coverup.” He added, “It takes courage to deliver bad news, particularly when the stakes are so high.” And Senator Whitehouse described Steele’s actions as akin to warning the F.B.I. about a “physical detonation of some sort,” noting, “If it had gone off, and he or the F.B.I. had ignored it, heads would roll.”
Regardless of what others might think, it’s clear that Steele believed that his dossier was filled with important intelligence. Otherwise, he would never have subjected it, his firm, and his reputation to the harsh scrutiny of the F.B.I. “I’m impressed that he was willing to share it with the F.B.I.,” Sipher said. “That gives him real credibility to me, the notion that he’d give it to the best intelligence professionals in the world.”
On July 5, 2016, Steele went to his London office and met with the F.B.I. agent with whom he’d worked on the fifa case. The agent responded to the first memo in the dossier, Steele has said, with “shock and horror.” Simpson knew that Steele had informed the F.B.I., but he has said that, amid the tumult of the 2016 campaign, it more or less slipped his mind. (In testimony before the Senate Judiciary Committee, he recalled asking himself, “I wonder what the F.B.I. did? Whoops—haven’t heard from them.”) As the summer went on, there was little indication that the F.B.I. was paying much attention, either.
For all the Republicans’ talk of a top-down Democratic plot, Steele and Simpson appear never to have told their ultimate client—the Clinton campaign’s law firm—that Steele had gone to the F.B.I. Clinton’s campaign spent much of the summer of 2016 fending off stories about the Bureau’s investigation into her e-mails, without knowing that the F.B.I. had launched a counter-intelligence investigation into the Trump team’s ties to Russia—one fuelled, in part, by the Clinton campaign’s own opposition research. As a top Clinton-campaign official told me, “If I’d known the F.B.I. was investigating Trump, I would have been shouting it from the rooftops!”
At virtually the same time that Steele told the F.B.I. about Russia’s interference in the 2016 Presidential campaign, the Kremlin was engaged—without his knowledge—in at least two other schemes to pass compromising information about Hillary Clinton to Trump’s inner circle.
The first scheme involved the Trump foreign-policy adviser George Papadopoulos. In April, 2016, over drinks with an Australian diplomat at a London bar, he divulged that Russia had access to thousands of Clinton e-mails. The diplomat informed his supervisors of this bizarre-sounding claim, but Papadopoulos was young and inexperienced, and the Australians didn’t give it much weight.
The second scheme unfolded at Trump Tower in New York. On June 9, 2016, top members of Trump’s campaign—including Donald Trump, Jr., Paul Manafort, and Jared Kushner—had a private meeting on the twenty-fifth floor with Natalia Veselnitskaya, a Russian lawyer. The attendees had been promised that she would present them with dirt Moscow had collected on Hillary Clinton. The meeting was set up after Donald, Jr., was approached by an emissary close to the Agalarov family—Azerbaijani oligarchs with whom Trump had partnered on the 2013 Miss Universe pageant, in Moscow. In an e-mail, the emissary promised Donald, Jr., that the documents “would incriminate Hillary and her dealings with Russia and would be very useful to your father,” and described this gift as “part of Russia and its government’s support for Mr. Trump.” Instead of going to the F.B.I., as Steele had, Trump’s older son responded giddily to the e-mail: “If it’s what you say I love it especially later in the summer.”
Donald, Jr., and the other participants insist that nothing of consequence happened at the Trump Tower meeting: Veselnitskaya expressed frustration with U.S. sanctions on Russia, but offered no information on Clinton. A number of former intelligence officers, however, believe that the meeting, which happened soon after Papadopoulos’s encounter with the Australian diplomat, enhances the dossier’s credibility. John McLaughlin, the deputy director of the C.I.A. from 2000 until 2004, told me, “I haven’t formed a final thought, but clearly parts of it are starting to resonate with what we know to be true about the Russians’ willingness to deliver information harmful to Hillary Clinton.”
Furthermore, Steele’s dossier had highlighted the Agalarov family’s connection with Trump. Ten months before the Times reported on the Trump Tower meeting, exposing the role of the Agalarov family’s emissary in setting it up, one of Steele’s memos had suggested that an “Azeri business associate of Trump, Araz agalarov, will know the details” of “bribes” and “sexual activities” that Trump had allegedly engaged in while visiting St. Petersburg. (A lawyer for the Agalarovs denies these claims.)
On June 14, 2016, five days after the Trump Tower meeting, the Washington Post broke the news that the Russians were believed to have hacked into the Democratic National Committee’s e-mail system. The first reports were remarkably blasé. D.N.C. officials admitted that they had learned about the hack months earlier. (It later surfaced that in November of 2014 Dutch intelligence officials had provided U.S. authorities with evidence that the Russians had broken into the Democratic Party’s computer system. U.S. officials reportedly thanked the Dutch for the tip, sending cake and flowers, but took little action.) When the infiltration of the D.N.C. finally became public, various officials were quoted as saying that the Russians were always trying to penetrate U.S. government systems, and were likely just trying to understand American politics better.
The attitudes of Democratic officials changed drastically when, three days before the start of the Democratic National Convention in Philadelphia, WikiLeaks dumped twenty thousand stolen D.N.C. e-mails onto the Internet. The e-mails had been weaponized: what had seemed a passive form of spying was now “an active measure,” in the parlance of espionage. The leaked e-mails, some of which suggested that the D.N.C. had secretly favored Clinton’s candidacy over that of Bernie Sanders, appeared just when the Party was trying to unify its supporters. The Party’s chair, Debbie Wasserman Schultz, was forced to resign, and recriminations and demonstrations disrupted the Convention.
Trump’s response was exultant. He said, “If it is Russia—which it’s probably not, nobody knows who it is—but if it is . . . Russia, if you’re listening, I hope you’re able to find the thirty thousand e-mails that are missing. I think you will probably be rewarded mightily by our press.” His campaign later described these comments as a joke.
At this point, a Clinton foreign-policy adviser, Laura Rosenberger, who had held various positions at the National Security Council and at the State Department during the Bush and Obama Administrations, grew seriously alarmed. She’d already noticed that Trump had pro-Russian positions on many issues, which seemed to her to be inexplicably outside the Republican mainstream. She’d also been struck by Trump’s hiring of Paul Manafort, who had worked as a political consultant for pro-Kremlin forces in Ukraine. Trump’s team then appeared to play a role in modifying the G.O.P. platform so that it better reflected Russia’s position on Ukraine policy. “It was all beginning to snowball,” she told me. “And then, with the e-mail leaks, it was, like, ‘Oh, fuck’—excuse my French—‘we are under attack!’ That was the moment when, as a national-security adviser, you break into sweats.”
Rosenberger, meanwhile, had no idea that the Clinton campaign had indirectly employed a Russia expert: Steele. Orbis’s work was sealed off, behind a legal barrier. Marc Elias, the attorney at Perkins Coie who was serving as the Clinton campaign’s general counsel, acted as a firewall between the campaign and the private investigators digging up information on Trump. It’s a common practice for law firms to hire investigators on behalf of clients, so that any details can be protected by attorney-client privilege. Fusion briefed only Elias on the reports. Simpson sent Elias nothing on paper—he was briefed orally. Elias, according to people familiar with the matter, was flabbergasted by the dossier but wasn’t sure what to do with the allegations. “Sex stuff is kind of worthless in a campaign,” Simpson told me. In the absence of live accusers or documentary evidence, such material is easy to dismiss, and can make the purveyor look sleazy.
At the same time, the financial machinations described in Steele’s reports were complex, and difficult to confirm: “yanukovych had confided in putin that he did authorise and order substantial kick-back payments to manafort as alleged but sought to reassure him that there was no documentary trail left behind.” (Manafort has denied this.) Elias broadly summarized some of the information to top campaign officials, including the campaign manager, Robby Mook, but Elias found much of the Kremlinology abstruse. He was more interested in finding actionable intelligence on the people who had exfiltrated the Democrats’ internal e-mails, and how to stop them.
Mook told me, “The problem with the Russia story is that people just weren’t buying it. Today, it’s, like, ‘Of course!’ But back then people thought that we were just desperately peddling conspiracy theories.” After the D.N.C.’s e-mails were hacked, Mook went on TV talk shows and pointed the finger at Russia, but, he says, his comments were often dismissed as “spin.” On Jake Tapper’s “State of the Union,” he declared, “What’s disturbing to us is that experts are telling us that Russian state actors broke into the D.N.C., stole these e-mails, and other experts are now saying that the Russians are releasing these e-mails for the purpose of actually helping Donald Trump.” Tapper then interviewed Donald Trump, Jr., who ridiculed Mook’s accusation as “disgusting” and “phony”—even though it’s now known that, just a few weeks earlier, he had met at Trump Tower with a Russian offering dirt on Clinton.
That summer, Steele noticed a few small news items further connecting Trump’s circle to Russia. On July 7, 2016, two days after Steele met in London with the F.B.I., Carter Page, a Trump foreign-policy adviser, travelled to Moscow, on a campaign-approved visit, and delivered a lecture at the prestigious New Economic School. Page’s remarks were head-turning. He criticized “Washington and other Western capitals” for “their often hypocritical focus on ideas such as democratization, inequality, corruption, and regime change.”
Page was an odd choice for Trump. In New York in 2013, two Russian intelligence operatives had attempted to recruit Page, an oil-industry consultant, although wiretaps revealed that one of the operatives had described him as an “idiot.” The F.B.I. later indicted the two Russian spies, and warned Page that the Kremlin was trying to recruit him, but he continued to pursue oil-and-gas deals in Russia. Ian Bremmer, the president of the Eurasia Group, a risk-consulting firm where Page had previously worked, said that Page had become a pro-Kremlin “wackadoodle.”
Steele didn’t know it, but U.S. authorities were independently monitoring Page. According to the recently released report by the Democratic minority on the House Intelligence Committee, the F.B.I. had interviewed Page about his contacts with Russian officials in March, 2016—the same month that Trump named him an adviser.
When Page gave his Moscow lecture, he declined to answer questions from the audience about whether he would be meeting Russian officials. Soon afterward, Steele filed another memo to Fusion, alleging that Page had indeed met with Russians close to Putin, as part of an ongoing effort by the Russians to cultivate sympathetic Trump aides. Steele’s sources claimed that one person Page had met with was Igor Sechin, the C.E.O. of the oil giant Rosneft. Sechin had purportedly proposed to Page increasing U.S.-Russian energy coöperation in exchange for lifting the Ukraine-related sanctions on Russia. Page, the dossier said, had “reacted positively” but had been “non-committal.” (Rosneft declined to comment. Page told me, “Steele got everything wrong as it relates to me.”)
A subsequent Steele memo claimed that Sechin was so eager to get U.S. sanctions lifted that, as an incentive, he offered Page the opportunity to help sell a stake of Rosneft to investors. Steele’s memo also alleged that while Page was in Russia he met with a top Kremlin official, Igor Diveykin, who floated the idea of leaking Russian kompromat on Clinton, in order to boost Trump’s candidacy. According to Steele’s memos, the damaging material on Clinton was political, not personal, and had been gathered partly from Russian intercepts.
Page has denied any wrongdoing. In a congressional interview in November, 2017, he initially said that he had not met with any Russian officials during his July trip. But, according to the Democrats’ recent Intelligence Committee report, when Page was confronted with evidence he was “forced to admit” that he had met with a top Kremlin official, after all, as well as with a Rosneft executive—Sechin’s close associate Andrey Baranov. The dossier may or may not have erred in its naming of specific officials, but it was clearly prescient in its revelation that during the Presidential campaign a covert relationship had been established between Page and powerful Russians who wanted U.S. sanctions lifted. Trump and his advisers have repeatedly denied having colluded with Russians. But, in Steele’s telling, the Russians were clearly offering Trump secret political help.
Steele’s memos describe two other Trump advisers as sympathetic to Russia: Paul Manafort, then the campaign manager, and Michael Flynn, an adviser whom Trump later appointed his national-security adviser. Flynn resigned from that post almost immediately, after it was revealed that he had engaged in conversations with the Russian Ambassador, Sergey Kislyak, about U.S. sanctions that Obama had imposed before leaving office. Flynn has become a central figure in Mueller’s investigation, having pleaded guilty to lying to the F.B.I. about his conversations with Kislyak.
On July 26, 2016, after WikiLeaks disseminated the D.N.C. e-mails, Steele filed yet another memo, this time claiming that the Kremlin was “behind” the hacking, which was part of a Russian cyber war against Hillary Clinton’s campaign. Many of the details seemed far-fetched: Steele’s sources claimed that the digital attack involved agents “within the Democratic Party structure itself,” as well as Russian émigrés in the U.S. and “associated offensive cyber operators.”
Neither of these claims has been substantiated, and it’s hard to imagine that they will be. But one of the dossier’s other seemingly outlandish assertions—that the hack involved “state-sponsored cyber operatives working in Russia”—has been buttressed. According to Special Counsel Mueller’s recent indictment of thirteen Russian nationals, Kremlin-backed operatives, hiding behind fake and stolen identities, posed as Americans on Facebook and Twitter, spreading lies and fanning ethnic and religious hatred with the aim of damaging Clinton and helping Trump. The Kremlin apparently spent about a million dollars a month to fund Internet trolls working round-the-clock shifts in a run-down office building in St. Petersburg. Their tactics were similar to those outlined in Steele’s Charlemagne investigation, including spreading falsehoods designed to turn voters toward extremism. The Russian operation also involved political activism inside the U.S., including the organizing of bogus pro-Trump rallies.
In England, Steele kept cranking out memos, but he was growing anxious about the lack of response from the F.B.I. As the summer wore on, he confided in an American friend, Jonathan Winer, a Democratic lawyer and foreign-policy specialist who was working at the State Department. Steele told him that Orbis sources had come across unsettling information about Trump’s ties to Russia. Winer recalls Steele saying that he “was more certain of it than about any information he’d gotten before in his life.” Winer told me, “Chris was deeply disturbed that the Kremlin was infecting our country. By hacking our computers and using WikiLeaks to disseminate the information—it was an infection. He thought it would have really bad consequences for the U.S. and the U.K., for starters. He thought it would destabilize these countries. He wanted the U.S. government to know. He’s a very institution-oriented person.”
During the previous two years, Steele had been sending Winer informal reports, gratis, about raw intelligence that he’d picked up on Ukraine and related areas while working for commercial clients. Winer, who encouraged Steele to keep sending the reports, estimated that he had received more than a hundred and twenty of them by 2016. He and others at the State Department found the research full of insights. Winer recalls Victoria Nuland, the top official overseeing U.S. policy on Russia, expressing surprise at how timely Steele’s reports were. A former top State Department official who read them said, “We found the reports about eighty per cent consistent with other sources we had. Occasionally, his sources appeared to exaggerate their knowledge or influence. But Steele also highlighted some players and back channels between Russia and Ukraine who became important later. So the reports had value.”
In September, 2016, Steele briefed Winer on the dossier at a Washington hotel. Winer prepared a two-page summary and shared it with a few senior State Department officials. Among them were Nuland and Jon Finer, the director of policy planning and the chief of staff to Secretary of State John Kerry. For several days, Finer weighed whether or not to burden Kerry with the information. He’d found the summary highly disturbing, but he didn’t know how to assess its claims. Eventually, he decided that, since others knew, his boss should know, too.
When Kerry was briefed, though, he didn’t think there was any action that he could take. He asked if F.B.I. agents knew about the dossier, and, after being assured that they did, that was apparently the end of it. Finer agreed with Kerry’s assessment, and put the summary in his safe, and never took it out again. Nuland’s reaction was much the same. She told Winer to tell Steele to take his dossier to the F.B.I. The so-called Deep State, it seems, hardly jumped into action against Trump.
“No one wanted to touch it,” Winer said. Obama Administration officials were mindful of the Hatch Act, which forbids government employees to use their positions to influence political elections. The State Department officials didn’t know who was funding Steele’s research, but they could see how politically explosive it was. So they backed away.
Steele believed that the Russians were engaged in the biggest electoral crime in U.S. history, and wondered why the F.B.I. and the State Department didn’t seem to be taking the threat seriously. Likening it to the attack on Pearl Harbor, he felt that President Obama needed to make a speech to alert the country. He also thought that Obama should privately warn Putin that unless he stopped meddling the U.S. would retaliate with a cyberattack so devastating it would shut Russia down.
Steele wasn’t aware that by August, 2016, a similar debate was taking place inside the Obama White House and the U.S. intelligence agencies. According to an article by the Washington Post, that month the C.I.A. sent what the paper described as “an intelligence bombshell” to President Obama, warning him that Putin was directly involved in a Russian cyber campaign aimed at disrupting the Presidential election—and helping Trump win. Robert Hannigan, then the head of the U.K.’s intelligence service the G.C.H.Q., had recently flown to Washington and briefed the C.I.A.’s director, John Brennan, on a stream of illicit communications between Trump’s team and Moscow that had been intercepted. (The content of these intercepts has not become public.) But, as the Post noted, the C.I.A.’s assessment that the Russians were interfering specifically to boost Trump was not yet accepted by other intelligence agencies, and it wasn’t until days before the Inauguration that major U.S. intelligence agencies had unanimously endorsed this view.
In the meantime, the White House was unsure how to respond. Earlier this year, at the Council on Foreign Relations, former Vice-President Joe Biden revealed that, after Presidential daily briefings, he and Obama “would sit there” and ask each other, “What the hell are we going to do?” The U.S. eventually sent a series of stern messages to the Russians, the most pointed of which took place when Obama pulled Putin aside on September 5th, at a G20 summit in China, and reportedly warned him, “Better stop, or else.”
But Obama and his top advisers did not want to take any action against Russia that might provoke a cyber war. And because it was so close to the election, they were wary about doing anything that could be construed as a ploy to help Clinton. All along, Trump had dismissed talk of Russian interference as a hoax, claiming that no one really knew who had hacked the D.N.C.: it could have been China, he said, or a guy from New Jersey, or “somebody sitting on their bed that weighs four hundred pounds.” Trump had also warned his supporters that the election would be rigged against him, and Obama and his top aides were loath to further undermine the public’s faith.
In early September, 2016, Obama tried to get congressional leaders to issue a bipartisan statement condemning Russia’s meddling in the election. He reasoned that if both parties signed on the statement couldn’t be attacked as political. The intelligence community had recently informed the Gang of Eight—the leaders of both parties and the ranking representatives on the Senate and House Intelligence Committees—that Russia was acting on behalf of Trump. But one Gang of Eight member, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, expressed skepticism about the Russians’ role, and refused to sign a bipartisan statement condemning Russia. After that, Obama, instead of issuing a statement himself, said nothing.
Steele anxiously asked his American counterparts what else could be done to alert the country. One option was to go to the press. Simpson wasn’t all that worried, though. As he recalled in his subsequent congressional testimony, “We were operating under the assumption at that time that Hillary Clinton was going to win the election, and so there was no urgency to it.”
Contemporaneous F.B.I. text messages disclosed recently by the Wall Street Journal reflect a similar complacency. In August, 2016, two F.B.I. employees, Lisa Page and Peter Strzok, texted about investigating possible collusion between Trump and the Russians. “omg I cannot believe we are seriously looking at these allegations and the pervasive connections,” Strzok wrote. Page suggested that they could take their time, because there was little reason to worry that Clinton would lose. But Strzok disagreed, warning that they should push ahead, anyway, as “an insurance policy” in case Trump was elected—like “the unlikely event you die before you’re 40.”
When excerpts of these texts first became public, Trump defenders such as Trey Gowdy seized on them as proof that the F.B.I. had schemed to devise “an insurance policy” to keep Trump from getting elected. But a reading of the full text chain makes it clear that the agents were discussing whether or not they needed to focus urgently on investigating collusion.
In late summer, Fusion set up a series of meetings, at the Tabard Inn, in Washington, between Steele and a handful of national-security reporters. These encounters were surely sanctioned in some way by Fusion’s client, the Clinton campaign. The sessions were off the record, but because Steele has since disclosed having participated in them I can confirm that I attended one of them. Despite Steele’s generally cool manner, he seemed distraught about the Russians’ role in the election. He did not distribute his dossier, provided no documentary evidence, and was so careful about guarding his sources that there was virtually no way to follow up. At the time, neither The New Yorker nor any other news organization ran a story about the allegations.
Inevitably, though, word of the dossier began to spread through Washington. A former State Department official recalls a social gathering where he danced around the subject with the British Ambassador, Sir Kim Darroch. After exchanging cryptic hints, to make sure that they were both in the know, he asked the Ambassador, “Is this guy Steele legit?” The Ambassador replied, “Absolutely.” Brennan, then the C.I.A. director, also heard the rumors. (Nunes reportedly plans to examine Steele’s interactions with the C.I.A. and the State Department next.) But Brennan said recently, on “Meet the Press,” that he heard just “snippets” about the dossier “in press circles,” emphasizing that he didn’t see the dossier until well after the election, and said that “it did not play any role whatsoever” in the intelligence community’s appraisal of Russian election meddling. Brennan said of the dossier, “It was up to the F.B.I. to see whether or not they could verify any of it.”
It wasn’t until October 7, 2016, that anyone in the Obama Administration spoke publicly about Russia’s interference. James Clapper, Obama’s director of National Intelligence, and Jeh Johnson, the head of the Department of Homeland Security, issued a joint statement saying that the U.S. intelligence community was “confident” that Russia had directed the hacking of the Democratic National Committee’s e-mails. James Comey, then the F.B.I. director, had reportedly changed his mind about issuing a public statement, deciding that it was too close to the election to make such a politically charged assertion.
In a normal political climate, the U.S. government’s announcement that a foreign power had attacked one of the two dominant parties in the midst of a Presidential election would have received enormous attention. But it was almost instantly buried by two other shocking news events. Thirty minutes after the statement was released, the Washington Post brought to light the “Access Hollywood” tape, in which Trump describes how his celebrity status had allowed him to “grab” women “by the pussy.” A few hours after that, WikiLeaks, evidently in an effort to bail out Trump by changing the subject, started posting the private e-mails of John Podesta, Clinton’s campaign chairman. The intelligence community’s assessment was barely noticed.
Steele finally met again with the F.B.I. in early October of 2016. This time, he went to Rome to speak with a team of agents, who avidly asked him for everything he had. The news generated by the publication of the D.N.C. e-mails had triggered the change. It had led the Australians to reconsider the importance of George Papadopoulos’s claims, and to alert American authorities. On July 31, 2016, the F.B.I. had launched a formal investigation.
The agents asked Steele about Papadopoulos, and he said that he hadn’t heard anything about him. After the meeting, Steele told Simpson that the Bureau had been amassing “other intelligence” about Russia’s scheme. As Simpson later told the Senate Judiciary Committee, F.B.I. agents now “believed Chris’s information might be credible.” Although the Bureau had paid Steele for past work, he was not paid for his help on the Trump investigation. Orbis remained under contract to Fusion, and Steele helped the F.B.I. voluntarily. (He did request compensation for travelling to Rome, but he never received any.)
Soon after the meeting in Rome, the F.B.I. successfully petitioned the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court for a warrant to spy on Carter Page. Trump’s defenders have accused the Bureau of relying on politically motivated smears to spy on Trump’s campaign, but by then Page was no longer an adviser to Trump, and the F.B.I. had collected information in addition to what had been supplied by Steele.
The Bureau encouraged Steele to send any relevant information he came across, and that October he passed on a questionable item—a bit of amateur sleuthing that had been done by someone he’d never met, a former journalist and self-styled investigator named Cody Shearer. Jonathan Winer, Steele’s friend at the State Department, had shared with him an unfinished memo written by Shearer. Not only did it claim that the F.S.B. had incriminating videotapes of Trump having sex in Moscow; it also made wild allegations that leaders of former Soviet states had given huge payments to Trump family members. Steele wasn’t aware that Shearer had longtime ties to the Clintons, as did Sidney Blumenthal, a Clinton ally, who had given Shearer’s report to Winer. Steele had never met Blumenthal, either, but he dutifully jotted down the chain of custody on the cover of the report before sending it on to the F.B.I., with the caveat that he couldn’t vouch for its credibility. He noted, though, that some of the findings were “remarkably similar” to Orbis’s.
Trump’s defenders have seized on the Shearer memo, which Steele didn’t write, using it to argue that Steele’s research was politically tainted by the Clintons. Sean Hannity’s official Web site carried the inaccurate headline “christopher steele authored ANOTHER DOSSIER, used clinton contacts.”
As the election approached, the relationship between Steele and the F.B.I. grew increasingly tense. He couldn’t understand why the government wasn’t publicizing Trump’s ties to Russia. He was anguished that the American voting public remained in the dark. Steele confided in a longtime friend at the Justice Department, an Associate Deputy Attorney General, Bruce Ohr (whose wife, Nellie Ohr, was briefly a contractor for Fusion). In a memo to the F.B.I., Bruce Ohr recalled Steele saying that, given what he had discovered, he “was desperate that Donald Trump not get elected and was passionate about him not being President.” According to people familiar with the matter, Ohr and other officials urged Steele not to be so upset about the F.B.I.’s secrecy, assuring him that, in the U.S., potentially prejudicial investigations of political figures were always kept quiet, especially when an election was imminent.
Steele was therefore shocked when, on October 28, 2016, Comey sent a letter to congressional leaders: the F.B.I. had come across new e-mails bearing on its previously closed investigation into Hillary Clinton’s use of a private server as Secretary of State. He said that these e-mails required immediate review. The announcement plunged Clinton’s campaign into chaos. Two days before the election, Comey made a second announcement, clearing her of wrongdoing, but by that point her campaign’s momentum had stalled.
To Steele, the F.B.I., by making an incriminating statement so close to Election Day, seemed to be breaking a rule that he’d been told was inviolable. And, given what he—and very few others—knew about the F.B.I.’s Trump investigation, it also seemed that the Bureau had one standard for Clinton and another for her opponent. “Chris was concerned that something was happening at the F.B.I.,” Simpson later told the House Intelligence Committee. “We were very concerned that the information that we had about the Russians trying to interfere in the election was going to be covered up.” Simpson and Steele thought that “it would only be fair if the world knew that both candidates were under investigation.”
At Fusion’s urging, Steele decided to speak, on background, to the press. Identified only as a “former Western intelligence officer,” he told David Corn, of Mother Jones, that he had provided information to the F.B.I. as part of a “pretty substantial inquiry” into Trump’s ties to Russia. He noted, “This is something of huge significance, way above party politics.”
The F.B.I., which had hoped to protect its ongoing probe from public view, was furious. Nunes, in his memo, claimed that Steele was “suspended and then terminated” as a source. In reality, the break was mutual, precipitated by Steele’s act of conscience.
Inside the Clinton campaign, John Podesta, the chairman, was stunned by the news that the F.B.I. had launched a full-blown investigation into Trump, especially one that was informed by research underwritten by the Clinton campaign. Podesta had authorized Robby Mook, the campaign manager, to handle budget matters, and Mook had approved Perkins Coie’s budget request for opposition research without knowing who was producing it. Podesta and Mook have maintained that they had no idea a former foreign intelligence officer was on the Democrats’ payroll until the Mother Jones article appeared, and that they didn’t read the dossier until BuzzFeed posted it online. Far from a secret campaign weapon, Steele turned out to be a secret kept from the campaign.
On November 8, 2016, Steele stayed up all night, watching the U.S. election returns. Trump’s surprise victory hit Orbis hard. A staff memo went out forgiving anyone who wanted to stay home and hide under his duvet. The news had one immediate consequence for Steele. He believed that Trump now posed a national-security threat to his country, too. He soon shared his research with a senior British official. The official carefully went through the details with Steele, but it isn’t clear whether the British government acted on his information.
The election was over, but Steele kept trying to alert American authorities. Later that November, he authorized a trusted mentor—Sir Andrew Wood, a former British Ambassador to Moscow—to inform Senator John McCain of the existence of his dossier. Wood, an unpaid informal adviser to Orbis, and Steele agreed that McCain, the hawkish chair of the Senate Armed Services Committee, should know what was going on. Wood told me, “It was simply a matter of duty.” Steele had gone to him before the election for counsel. They’d discussed the possibility that Steele’s sources in Russia were wrong, or spreading disinformation, but concluded that none of them had a motive to lie; moreover, they had taken considerable risks to themselves to get the truth out. “I sensed he was distinctly alarmed,” Wood told me. “I don’t doubt his good faith at all. It’s absurd for anyone to suggest he was engaged in political tricks.”
The week before Thanksgiving, Wood briefed McCain at the Halifax International Security Forum. McCain was deeply concerned. He asked a former aide, David Kramer, to go to England to meet Steele. Kramer, a Russia expert who had served at the State Department, went over the dossier with Steele for hours. After Kramer promised to share the document only with McCain, Steele arranged for Kramer to receive a copy in Washington. But a former national-security official who spoke with Kramer at the time told me that one of Kramer’s ideas was to have McCain confront Trump with the evidence, in the hope that Trump would resign. “He would tell Trump, ‘The Russians have got you,’ ” the former official told me. (A lawyer for Kramer maintains that Kramer never considered getting Trump to resign and never promised to show the dossier only to McCain.) Ultimately, though, McCain and Kramer agreed that McCain should take the dossier to the head of the F.B.I. On December 9th, McCain handed Comey a copy of the dossier. The meeting lasted less than ten minutes, because, to McCain’s surprise, the F.B.I. had possessed a copy since the summer. According to the former national-security official, when Kramer learned about the meeting his reaction was “Shit, if they’ve had it all this time, why didn’t they do something?” Kramer then heard that the dossier was an open secret among journalists, too. He asked, “Is there anyone in Washington who doesn’t know about this?”
On January 5, 2017, it became clear that at least two Washingtonians remained in the dark about the dossier: the President and the Vice-President. That day, in a top-secret Oval Office meeting, the chiefs of the nation’s top intelligence agencies briefed Obama and Biden and some national-security officials for the first time about the dossier’s allegation that Trump’s campaign team may have colluded with the Russians. As one person present later told me, “No one understands that at the White House we weren’t briefed about the F.B.I.’s investigations. We had no information on collusion. All we saw was what the Russians were doing. The F.B.I. puts anything about Americans in a lockbox.”
The main purpose of the Oval Office meeting was to run through a startling report that the U.S. intelligence chiefs were about to release to the public. It contained the agencies’ unanimous conclusion that, during the Presidential campaign, Putin had directed a cyber campaign aimed at getting Trump elected. But, before releasing the report, the intelligence chiefs—James Clapper, the director of National Intelligence; Admiral Mike Rogers, the N.S.A. director; Brennan; and Comey—shared a highly classified version with Obama, Biden, and the other officials.
The highly classified report included a two-page appendix about the dossier. Comey briefed the group on it. According to three former government officials familiar with the meeting, he didn’t name Steele but said that the appendix summarized information obtained by a former intelligence officer who had previously worked with the F.B.I. and had come forward with troubling information. Comey laid out the dossier’s allegations that there had been numerous contacts between the Trump campaign and Russian officials, and that there may have been deals struck between them. Comey also mentioned some of the sexual details in the dossier, including the alleged golden-showers kompromat.
“It was chilling,” the meeting participant recalls.
Obama stayed silent. All through the campaign, he and others in his Administration had insisted on playing by the rules, and not interfering unduly in the election, to the point that, after Trump’s victory, some critics accused them of political negligence. The Democrats, far from being engaged in a political conspiracy with Steele, had been politically paralyzed by their high-mindedness.
Biden asked, “How seriously should we take this?” Comey responded that the F.B.I. had not corroborated the details in the dossier, but he said that portions of it were “consistent” with what the U.S. intelligence community had obtained from other channels. He also said that the F.B.I. had “confidence” in the dossier’s author—a careful but definite endorsement—because it had worked not only with him but with many of his sources and sub-sources, whose identities the Bureau knew. “He’s proven credible in the past, and so has his network,” Comey said.
“If this is true, this is huge!” Biden exclaimed.
Someone asked how intelligence officials planned to handle the dossier with Trump. Comey explained that he’d decided to brief the President-elect about it the next day. He would do it on his own, he said, to avoid unnecessary embarrassment. But he thought that Trump needed to know about the dossier, even if the allegations were false, for two reasons: it could prove “impactful” if the dossier became public, and the dossier could be used as leverage over the President-elect. Trump later suggested that Comey had actually used the dossier to get leverage over him, but, according to the officials familiar with the meeting, Comey’s motive was to protect the President-elect. In fact, if Comey had wanted to use the dossier as leverage, he could have done so months earlier, before Trump was elected, since it had been in the F.B.I.’s possession.
Comey’s meeting with the President-elect, in a conference room at Trump Tower, did not go well. Neither he nor Trump has disclosed details of their exchange, but Comey later released a public statement in which he said that as soon as he left the building he “felt compelled” to memorialize in writing what had occurred. He’d never felt the need to take such a legal step during the Obama years. Later, when he was questioned by a Senate panel, Comey explained that he had done so because of the “nature of the person,” adding, “I was honestly concerned he might lie about the nature of our meeting.” The briefing established a rocky dynamic that culminated in Trump’s dismissing Comey, and with Trump adopting a hostile posture toward the intelligence and law-enforcement agencies investigating him.
Republican critics have accused the intelligence agencies of having blended Steele’s work with their own investigations. But the F.B.I., by relegating the dossier to an appendix, deliberately separated it from the larger intelligence-community report. Steele has told friends that this approach left him exposed. The F.B.I. never asked his permission to do this. “They threw me under the bus,” Steele has complained to friends.
Unsurprisingly, the salacious news leaked in no time. Four days after Comey briefed Trump, CNN reported that the President-elect had been briefed on a scandalous dossier supplied by a former British intelligence operative. Almost instantly, BuzzFeed posted a copy of Steele’s dossier online, arguing that the high-level briefing made it a matter of public interest. BuzzFeed has declined to reveal its source for the dossier, but both Orbis and Fusion have denied supplying it. By a process of elimination, speculation has centered on McCain’s aide, Kramer, who has not responded to inquiries about it, and whose congressional testimony is sealed.
Trump immediately denounced CNN’s report as “fake news,” and BuzzFeed as “a failing pile of garbage.” He called the document “crap” compiled by “sick people,” and at a news conference at Trump Tower he insisted that the golden-showers episode couldn’t be true, because he was “very much of a germophobe.”
The day after BuzzFeed posted the dossier, the Wall Street Journal identified Steele as its author. In England, reporters peered in his windows and tracked down his relatives, including the siblings of his deceased wife. Two reporters from RT, a Russian state news agency, seemed especially aggressive in staking out his house. In response, Steele and his family went into hiding. They reportedly left their three cats with neighbors, and Steele grew a beard.
The dossier’s publication caused a series of repercussions. Aleksej Gubarev, the Russian Internet entrepreneur, sued Steele and Orbis, and also BuzzFeed, for libel. He said the dossier falsely claimed that his companies, Webzilla and XBT Holding, had aided the Russian hacking of the D.N.C. (Steele’s lawyers have said that the dossier’s publication was unforeseen, so he shouldn’t be held responsible. BuzzFeed has argued that the content was not libelous.) Pretrial maneuvering in the libel case has resulted in a court ordering Gubarev to disclose whether he or his companies are under criminal investigation. His answer may shed some light on the dossier’s depiction of him as a questionable character.
In Russia, there were rumors of a more primitive kind of justice taking place. During Glenn Simpson’s testimony to the Senate Judiciary Committee, his lawyer asserted that “somebody’s already been killed as a result of the publication of this dossier.” Who that could be has been the subject of much media speculation. One possibility that has been mentioned is Oleg Erovinkin, a former F.S.B. officer and top aide to Igor Sechin, the Rosneft president. On December 26, 2016, Erovinkin was found dead in his car. No official cause of death has been cited. No evidence has emerged that Erovinkin was a Steele source, and in fact Special Counsel Mueller is believed to be investigating a different death that is possibly related to the dossier. (A representative for Mueller declined to answer questions for this article.) Meanwhile, around the same time that Erovinkin died, Russian authorities charged a cybersecurity expert and two F.S.B. officers with treason.
In the spring of 2017, after eight weeks in hiding, Steele gave a brief statement to the media, announcing his intention of getting back to work. On the advice of his lawyers, he hasn’t spoken publicly since. But Steele talked at length with Mueller’s investigators in September. It isn’t known what they discussed, but, given the seriousness with which Steele views the subject, those who know him suspect that he shared many of his sources, and much else, with the Mueller team.
One subject that Steele is believed to have discussed with Mueller’s investigators is a memo that he wrote in late November, 2016, after his contract with Fusion had ended. This memo, which did not surface publicly with the others, is shorter than the rest, and is based on one source, described as “a senior Russian official.” The official said that he was merely relaying talk circulating in the Russian Ministry of Foreign Affairs, but what he’d heard was astonishing: people were saying that the Kremlin had intervened to block Trump’s initial choice for Secretary of State, Mitt Romney. (During Romney’s run for the White House in 2012, he was notably hawkish on Russia, calling it the single greatest threat to the U.S.) The memo said that the Kremlin, through unspecified channels, had asked Trump to appoint someone who would be prepared to lift Ukraine-related sanctions, and who would coöperate on security issues of interest to Russia, such as the conflict in Syria. If what the source heard was true, then a foreign power was exercising pivotal influence over U.S. foreign policy—and an incoming President.
As fantastical as the memo sounds, subsequent events could be said to support it. In a humiliating public spectacle, Trump dangled the post before Romney until early December, then rejected him. There are plenty of domestic political reasons that Trump may have turned against Romney. Trump loyalists, for instance, noted Romney’s public opposition to Trump during the campaign. Roger Stone, the longtime Trump aide, has suggested that Trump was vengefully tormenting Romney, and had never seriously considered him. (Romney declined to comment. The White House said that he was never a first choice for the role and declined to comment about any communications that the Trump team may have had with Russia on the subject.) In any case, on December 13, 2016, Trump gave Rex Tillerson, the C.E.O. of ExxonMobil, the job. The choice was a surprise to most, and a happy one in Moscow, because Tillerson’s business ties with the Kremlin were long-standing and warm. (In 2011, he brokered a historic partnership between ExxonMobil and Rosneft.) After the election, Congress imposed additional sanctions on Russia, in retaliation for its interference, but Trump and Tillerson have resisted enacting them.
Eighteen months after the dossier’s publication, Steele has impassioned detractors on both the left and the right. On the left, Stephen Cohen, a Russia scholar and Nation contributor, has denied the existence of any collusion between Trump and Russia, and has accused Steele of being part of a powerful “fourth branch of government,” comprising intelligence agencies whose anti-Russia and anti-Trump biases have run amok. On the right, the Washington Examiner’s Byron York has championed Grassley and Graham’s criminal referral, arguing that Steele has a “credibility issue,” because he purportedly lied to the F.B.I. about talking to the press. But did Steele lie? The Justice Department has not filed charges against him. The most serious accusation these critics make is that the F.B.I. tricked the fisa Court into granting a warrant to spy on Trump associates on the basis of false and politically motivated opposition research. If true, this would be a major abuse of power. But the Bureau didn’t trick the court—it openly disclosed that Steele’s funding was political. Moreover, Steele’s dossier was only part of what the fisa warrant rested on. According to the Democrats’ Intelligence Committee report, the Justice Department obtained information “that corroborated Steele’s reporting” through “multiple independent sources.”
It’s too early to make a final judgment about how much of Steele’s dossier will be proved wrong, but a number of Steele’s major claims have been backed up by subsequent disclosures. His allegation that the Kremlin favored Trump in 2016 and was offering his campaign dirt on Hillary has been borne out. So has his claim that the Kremlin and WikiLeaks were working together to release the D.N.C.’s e-mails. Key elements of Steele’s memos on Carter Page have held up, too, including the claim that Page had secret meetings in Moscow with Rosneft and Kremlin officials. Steele may have named the wrong oil-company official, but, according to recent congressional disclosures, he was correct that a top Rosneft executive talked to Page about a payoff. According to the Democrats’ report, when Page was asked if a Rosneft executive had offered him a “potential sale of a significant percentage of Rosneft,” Page said, “He may have briefly mentioned it.”
And, just as the Kremlin allegedly feared, damaging financial details have surfaced about Manafort’s dealings with Ukraine officials. Further, his suggestion that Trump had “agreed to sideline Russian intervention in Ukraine as a campaign issue” seems to have been confirmed by the pro-Russia changes that Trump associates made to the Republican platform. Special Counsel Mueller’s various indictments of Manafort have also strengthened aspects of the dossier.
Indeed, it’s getting harder every day to claim that Steele was simply spreading lies, now that three former Trump campaign officials—Flynn, Papadopoulos, and Rick Gates, who served as deputy campaign chairman—have all pleaded guilty to criminal charges, and appear to be coöperating with the investigation. And, of course, Mueller has indicted thirteen Russian nationals for waging the kind of digital warfare that Steele had warned about.
On January 9th, Trump’s personal attorney, Michael Cohen, filed a hundred-million-dollar defamation lawsuit against Fusion. He also sued BuzzFeed. Cohen tweeted, “Enough is enough of the #fake #RussianDossier.” Steele mentioned Cohen several times in the dossier, and claimed that Cohen met with Russian operatives in Prague, in the late summer of 2016, to pay them off and cover up the Russian hacking operation. Cohen denies that he’s ever set foot in Prague, and has produced his passport to prove it. A congressional official has told Politico, however, that an inquiry into the allegation is “still active.” And, since the dossier was published, several examples have surfaced of Cohen making secretive payments to cover up other potentially damaging stories. Cohen recently acknowledged to the Times that he personally paid Stephanie Clifford, a porn star who goes by the name Stormy Daniels, a hundred and thirty thousand dollars; it is widely believed that Trump and Clifford had a secret sexual relationship.
In London, Steele is back at work, attending to other cases. Orbis has landed several new clients as a result of the publicity surrounding the dossier. The week after it became public, the company received two thousand job applications.
John Sipher, the former C.I.A. officer, predicts that Mueller’s probe will render the final verdict on Steele’s dossier. “People who say it’s all garbage, or all true, are being politically biased,” Sipher said. “There’s enough there to be worthy of further study. Professionals need to look at travel records, phone records, bank records, foreign police-service cameras, and check it all out. It will take professional investigators to run it to ground.” He believes that Mueller, whose F.B.I. he worked with, “is a hundred per cent doing that.”
Until then, Sipher said, Steele, as a former English spook, is the perfect political foil: “The Trump supporters can attack the messenger, because no one knows him or understands him, so you can paint him any way you want.” Strobe Talbott, a Russia expert who served as Deputy Secretary of State in the Clinton Administration, and who has known Steele professionally for ten years, has watched the spectacle in Washington with regret. Talbott regards Steele as a “smart, careful, professional, and congenial” colleague who “knows the post-Soviet space, and is exactly what he says he is.” Yet, Talbott said, “they’re trying to turn him into political polonium—touch him and you die.” ♦
https://www.newyorker.com/magazine/2018 ... mp-dossier
The only card he has left to play is his resignation
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Re: Trump Intelligence Allegations THE DOSSIER

Postby seemslikeadream » Sat Apr 14, 2018 11:55 am

McClatchy says DOJ has evidence Cohen did go to Prague during the election, despite his adamant denials.


Sources: Mueller has evidence Cohen was in Prague in 2016, confirming part of dossier

By Peter Stone And Greg Gordon

Special Counsel Robert Mueller has evidence that Donald Trump’s attorney Michael Cohen made a late-summer trip to Prague during the 2016 presidential campaign, around the time a British spy says Cohen met with a Kremlin official there to discuss Russian interference in the U.S. election, sources have told McClatchy. Cohen, pictured on April 11, 2018, has vehemently denied ever visiting Prague.
Special Counsel Robert Mueller has evidence that Donald Trump’s attorney Michael Cohen made a late-summer trip to Prague during the 2016 presidential campaign, around the time a British spy says Cohen met with a Kremlin official there to discuss Russian interference in the U.S. election, sources have told McClatchy. Cohen, pictured on April 11, 2018, has vehemently denied ever visiting Prague. Mary Altaffer AP
The Justice Department special counsel has evidence that Donald Trump’s personal lawyer and confidant, Michael Cohen, secretly made a late-summer trip to Prague during the 2016 presidential campaign, according to two sources familiar with the matter.

Confirmation of the trip would lend credence to a retired British spy’s report that Cohen strategized there with a powerful Kremlin figure about Russian meddling in the U.S. election.

It would also be one of the most significant developments thus far in Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation of whether the Trump campaign and the Kremlin worked together to help Trump win the White House. Undercutting Trump’s repeated pronouncements that “there is no evidence of collusion,” it also could ratchet up the stakes if the president tries, as he has intimated he might for months, to order Mueller’s firing.

Trump’s threats to fire Mueller or the deputy attorney general overseeing the investigation, Rod Rosenstein, grew louder this week when the FBI raided Cohen’s home, hotel room and office on Monday. The raid was unrelated to the Trump-Russia collusion probe, but instead focused on payments made to women who have said they had sexual relationships with Trump.

Cohen has vehemently denied for months that he ever has been in Prague or colluded with Russia during the campaign. Neither he nor his lawyer responded to requests for comment for this story.

It’s unclear whether Mueller’s investigators also have evidence that Cohen actually met with a prominent Russian – purportedly Konstantin Kosachev, an ally of Russian President Vladimir Putin — in the Czech capital. Kosachev, who chairs the Foreign Affairs Committee of a body of the Russian legislature, the Federation Council, also has denied visiting Prague during 2016. Earlier this month, Kosachev was among 24 high-profile Russians hit with stiff U.S. sanctions in retaliation for Russia’s meddling.

But investigators have traced evidence that Cohen entered the Czech Republic through Germany, apparently during August or early September of 2016 as the ex-spy reported, said the sources, who spoke on condition of anonymity because the investigation is confidential. He wouldn’t have needed a passport for such a trip, because both countries are in the so-called Schengen Area in which 26 nations operate with open borders. The disclosure still left a puzzle: The sources did not say whether Cohen took a commercial flight or private jet to Europe, and gave no explanation as to why no record of such a trip has surfaced.

Peter Carr, a spokesman for Mueller’s office, declined comment.

Unconfirmed reports of a clandestine Prague meeting came to public attention in January 2017, with the publication of a dossier purporting to detail the Trump campaign’s interactions with Russia – a series of reports that former British MI6 officer Christopher Steele gathered from Kremlin sources for Trump’s political opponents, including Democrat Hillary Clinton’s campaign and the Democratic National Committee. Cohen’s alleged communications with the Russians were mentioned multiple times in Steele’s reports, which he ultimately shared with the FBI.

When the news site Buzzfeed published the entire dossier on Jan. 11, Trump denounced the news organization as “a failing pile of garbage” and said the document was “false and fake.” Cohen tweeted, “I have never been to Prague in my life. #fakenews.”

In the ensuing months, he allowed Buzzfeed to inspect his passport and tweeted: “The #Russian dossier is WRONG!”

Last August, an attorney for Cohen, Stephen Ryan, delivered to Congress a point-by-point rebuttal of the dossier’s allegations, stating: “Mr. Cohen is not aware of any ‘secret TRUMP campaign/Kremlin relationship.’”

However, Democratic investigators for the House and Senate Intelligence Committees, which are conducting parallel inquiries into Russia’s election interference, also are skeptical about whether Cohen was truthful about his 2016 travels to Europe when he was interviewed by the panels last October, two people familiar with those probes told McClatchy this week. Cohen has publicly acknowledged making three trips to Europe that year – to Italy in July, England in early October and a third after Trump’s November election. The investigators intend to press Cohen for more information, said the sources, who lacked authorization to speak for the record

One of the sources said congressional investigators have “a high level of interest” in Cohen’s European travel, with their doubts fueled by what they deem to be weak documentation Cohen has provided about his whereabouts around the time the Prague meeting was supposed to have occurred.

Cohen has said he was only in New York and briefly in Los Angeles during August, when the meeting may have occurred, though the sources said it also could have been held in early September.

Evidence that Cohen was in Prague “certainly helps undermine his credibility,” said Jill Wine-Banks, a former Watergate prosecutor who lives in Chicago. “It doesn’t matter who he met with. His denial was that I was never in Prague. Having proof that he was is, for most people, going to be more than enough to say I don’t believe anything else he says.”

It doesn’t matter who he met with. His denial was that I was never in Prague. Having proof that he was is, for most people, going to be more than enough to say I don’t believe anything else he says.

Former Watergate prosecutor Jill Wine-Banks

“I think that, given the relationship between Michael Cohen and the president,” Wine-Banks said, “it’s not believable that Michael Cohen did not tell him about his trip to Prague.”

The dossier alleges that Cohen, two Russians and several Eastern European hackers met at the Prague office of a Russian government-backed social and cultural organization, Rossotrudnichestvo. The location was selected to provide an alternative explanation in case the rendezvous was exposed, according to Steele’s Kremlin sources, cultivated during 20 years of spying on Russia. It said that Oleg Solodukhin, the deputy chief of Rossotrudnichestvo’s operation in the Czech Republic, attended the meeting, too.

Further, it alleges that Cohen, Kosachev and other attendees discussed “how deniable cash payments were to be made to hackers in Europe who had worked under Kremlin direction against the Clinton campaign.”

U.S. intelligence agencies and cyber experts say Kremlin-backed hackers pirated copies of thousands of emails from the Democratic National Committee and Clinton campaign chief John Podesta during 2015 and 2016, some politically damaging, including messages showing that the DNC was biased toward Clinton in the party’s nomination battle pitting her against Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders. Mueller’s investigators have sought to learn who passed the emails to WikiLeaks, a London-based transparency group, which published them in July and October, causing embarrassment to Clinton and her backers.

Citing information from an unnamed “Kremlin insider,” Steele’s dossier says the Prague meeting agenda also included discussion “in cryptic language for security reasons,” of ways to “sweep it all under the carpet and make sure no connection could be fully established or proven.” Romanians were among the hackers present, it says, and the discussion touched on using Bulgaria as a location where they could “lie low.”

It is a felony for anyone to hack email accounts. Other laws forbid foreigners from contributing cash or in-kind services to U.S. political campaigns.

If Cohen met with Russians and hackers in Prague as described in the dossier, it would provide perhaps the most compelling evidence to date that the Russians and Trump campaign aides were collaborating. Mueller’s office also has focused on two meetings in the spring of 2016 when Russians offered to provide Trump campaign aides with “dirt” on Clinton – thousands of emails in one of the offers.

Cohen is already in the spotlight because of the FBI raids on his offices and home in New York. Various news outlets have reported that investigators principally sought evidence on non-Russia matters, including a covert, $130,000 payment Cohen made days before the 2016 election to porn star Stormy Daniels to silence her about an alleged affair with Trump. The FBI raids also scooped up some of Cohen's computers and cell phones among other evidence, according to these reports.

CNN, which reported Friday that Cohen’s business dealings have been a subject of a separate months-long investigation by prosecutors in the Southern District of New York, also quoted sources as saying that Cohen often taped phone conversations and those tapes also could be in the FBI’s possession.

If the raids turned up evidence that would be useful to Mueller’s investigation, rather than the one being done in New York, it would be shared with Mueller’s team, unless a court imposes conditions regarding the transfer of evidence, said former senior Justice Department official Michael Zeldin. “Given the sensitivities in this case, I expect evidentiary sharing decisions will be mediated by main DOJ and FBI headquarters,” Zeldin said.

Prior to Trump’s election, Cohen spent almost a decade in high-profile positions in Trump’s real estate company and grew a reputation as Trump’s “fixer.” During 2016, he was an informal adviser to the Trump campaign, proving to be one of Trump’s fiercest defenders in television interviews.

When Trump took office, Cohen became Trump’s personal attorney.

He also formed a law firm, Michael D. Cohen & Associates, which in April forged a strategic alliance with the powerful Washington lobbying firm Squire Patton Boggs. With headlines blaring about Cohen’s role in providing hush money to Daniels, the two firms disclosed this week they had parted company.

Soon after Trump took office, Cohen became embroiled in controversy when The New York Times reported he was involved in promoting a secret “peace plan” for Ukraine and Russia that was the brainchild of a little-known Ukrainian legislator, Andrii Artemenko. The plan would have ended U.S. sanctions against Moscow and allowed Russia, if it pulled back militants invading Ukraine, to keep control of Crimea under a 50- to 100-year lease, if voters approved.

In February 2017, he told the newspaper, he left it on the desk of Trump’s national security adviser, Michael Flynn, who resigned days later and later pleaded guilty to lying to the FBI about contacts with the Russian ambassador. But in subsequent interviews, Cohen denied ever delivering the plan to the White House.

Knowledge that Cohen may indeed have traveled to Prague during the campaign could heighten Trump’s risk of being prosecuted for obstruction of justice if news reports are accurate that he is considering firing Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein, who oversees the Mueller investigation, or Mueller.

“This kind of knowledge impacts his state of mind in taking any action in firing anyone from the Justice Department or Mueller’s office,” Wine-Banks said, because it would be easier for prosecutors to build a criminal case showing he did so to impede Mueller’s investigation.

If the Prague meeting actually occurred, Kosachev’s possible involvement would be especially significant given his close ties to Putin and other roles he has played in covert Moscow efforts to destabilize other countries, Russia experts said.

“While not a member of Putin's innermost circle, (Kosachev) is one of the most influential Russian voices on foreign affairs,” said Michael Carpenter, a former senior Pentagon official. “When Kosachev speaks, everyone knows he's speaking for the Kremlin.”

Kosachev appears to have been a booster of Trump over Clinton in early June of 2016, according to a post on his Facebook page at the time.

“Trump looks slightly more promising,” Kosachev wrote. “At least, he is capable of giving a shake to Washington. He is certainly a pragmatist and not a missionary like his main opponent [Hillary] Clinton.”

The Prague meeting would have occurred during a period when Trump advisers had become jittery about publicity swirling around the campaign’s Russian connections and seemingly friendly posture toward Moscow, according to the dossier and a source familiar with the federal investigation.

Campaign chairman Paul Manafort resigned abruptly on Aug. 19, shortly after the revelation that he had received $12.7 million in secret consulting fees over five years from the pro-Russia Party of Regions in Ukraine. Manafort was instrumental in the 2010 election of pro-Russian president Viktor Yanukovych, who was ousted in early 2014 and fled to Moscow.

Another flap stemmed from a secretive maneuver at the Republican National Convention in July. Party officials weakened language in the 2016 Republican platform calling for a boost in U.S. military aid to support Ukraine’s fight with Russian-backed separatists who invaded Eastern Ukraine and Crimea.

The dossier cited multiple sources as reporting that Kremlin officials also had grown edgy about the possible exposure of their secret “active measures” effort to defeat Clinton and help Trump. According to the dossier, Russian diplomat Mikhail Kalugin was brought home from Russia’s embassy in Washington last August because he had played a key role in coordinating the cyber offensive. McClatchy quoted several Russia experts on Feb. 15 as saying they suspected Kalugin was an intelligence operative. Kalugin has denied any espionage activities.

Cohen’s attendance at a Prague meeting like the one described in the dossier would have been a logical assignment for him; Trump had long used him to solve business and legal headaches, three Republican operatives who were close to the campaign said.

One source with close ties to the campaign said Cohen “wanted a bigger and more formal role [in the campaign], but there were a lot of long knives out for him within the campaign and the larger GOP infrastructure in part because he was a Democrat and treated people horribly.”

Cohen was best known during the 2016 campaign for his testy interviews defending Trump. In one case, when an interviewer cited poor polling numbers for Trump. Cohen kept aggressively asking, “Says who?”

Beginning last year, he took a hand in fundraising for the Republican National Committee and Trump’s re-election campaign. Cohen was one of four co-chairs of a big fundraiser at the Trump International hotel in mid-2017 that raised about $10 million for the two committees. In April 2017, Cohen was named a national deputy finance chairman at the RNC, not long after his March announcement that he had officially registered as a Republican.

A millionaire with his own New York real estate holdings, Cohen has long had family and business ties to Ukraine. His wife is Ukrainian, and he has had ties to Ukrainian ethanol company. He also once ran a thriving taxi business.

Peter Stone is a McClatchy special correspondent
http://www.mcclatchydc.com/news/politic ... 70264.html
The only card he has left to play is his resignation
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Re: Trump Intelligence Allegations THE DOSSIER

Postby seemslikeadream » Tue May 15, 2018 7:34 am

Michael Cohen’s Meetings With Michael Flynn and a Qatari Diplomat Might Be the Key to Unlocking the Steele Dossier

What were all of these men doing together at the same time in Trump Tower in December 2016?

Jeremy Stahl May 14, 20188:39 PM
Jurisprudence
Image
A possible image of Ahmed Al-Rumaihi at a BIG3 basketball game between the Ghost Ballers and Trilogy on July 30 at the American Airlines Center in Dallas.

Matthew Visinsky/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images
The founder of a three-on-three basketball league who claims he was offered a bribe by a one-time Qatari diplomat to arrange access to Steve Bannon said on Monday that the former diplomat is the same person photographed with Michael Cohen at Trump Tower in December 2016.

BIG3 basketball league co-founder Jeff Kwatinetz told Slate that he recognized Ahmed Al-Rumaihi in photos with Cohen that were tweeted Sunday by attorney Michael Avenatti.

“Yes, 100 percent,” Kwatinetz said when asked if he thought the videos and photos were of Ahmed Al-Rumaihi. Last week, Kwatinetz, who is a co-founder of BIG3 with Ice Cube, accused Al-Rumaihi in a sworn court declaration of making an attempted bribe and of suggestively boasting that Flynn had not refused “our money.”

Sports Trinity, Al-Rumaihi’s sports firm, would not confirm or deny that Al-Rumaihi was at the meeting on Dec. 12, 2016, which occurred less than two hours before a public meeting between Cohen and incoming national security adviser Michael Flynn. “We do not confirm and have no basis to confirm the video,” Sports Trinity said in a statement sent to Slate by Robert Siegfried, vice chairman of Kekst and Co., a communications firm; Siegfried declined to answer questions about whether or not Al-Rumaihi remains in the country at this time. Al-Rumaihi’s lawyer, Brian D. Hershman of Jones Day, did not respond to multiple email and phone inquiries about whether the images were of Al-Rumaihi and about his current whereabouts.

The photos were posted on Twitter on Sunday by Avenatti, who is representing the adult film actor Stormy Daniels in a lawsuit against Cohen that seeks to nullify her confidentiality agreement over an alleged affair with Donald Trump. Avenatti tweeted the images that appeared to show Al-Rumaihi entering an elevator in Trump Tower on Dec. 12, 2016, five days after news broke of the multibillion-dollar sale of 19.5 percent of the Russian fossil fuel giant Rosneft to Swiss trading firm Glencore and Qatar’s sovereign investment fund. (Glencore and Qatar sold off a major stake of Rosneft to China last year, but earlier this month Qatar bought back in to the Russian company for a total stake of 19 percent.)

The allegations in the Steele dossier suggested a future quid-pro-quo deal between Russia and the Trump campaign.
The Rosneft deal features prominently in an investigative dossier compiled by former British spy Christopher Steele. A central claim of the Steele dossier was that Trump foreign policy adviser Carter Page, during an alleged meeting with Rosneft officials in summer 2016, promised that a Trump administration would undo sanctions against Russia, in part, in exchange for brokerage of the Rosneft deal. In May 2016, Al-Rumaihi reportedly took over as head of a major division of the wealth fund ultimately involved in the Rosneft deal.

The allegations in the Steele dossier, made in October 2016, suggested a future quid-pro-quo deal between Russia and the Trump campaign. Trump has been conspicuously resistant to Russian sanctions despite widespread congressional support from both parties. As Jed Shugerman has noted in Slate, during congressional testimony Page acknowledged meeting with Andrey Baranov, the head of investor relations at Rosneft, during his July 2016 trip to Russia and acknowledged “briefly” discussing the sale of Rosneft as well as there being “some general reference” to sanctions. As Business Insider’s Natasha Bertrand has reported, Page also acknowledged meeting with top Rosneft managers in Moscow on Dec. 8—four days before the apparent Cohen–Al-Rumaihi meeting and one day after the completion of the Rosneft deal.

Avenatti noted in his tweets over the weekend that Cohen was seen meeting with Flynn and incoming Energy Secretary Rick Perry within two hours of apparently entering the elevator with Al-Rumaihi.

Here is a brief rundown of the image comparisons in question.

These are a pair of photos of Al-Rumaihi attending BIG3 basketball games in July 2017:

Actor / rapper Bow Wow looks on during a BIG3 Basketball league game on July 16, 2017 at Wells Fargo Center in Philadelphia.
John Jones/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images
DALLAS, TX - JULY 30: Trilogy guard James White (#8) dribbles as Ghost Ballers guard Mike Bibby (#10) and forward Ivan Johnson (#44) defend during the Big3 basketball game between the Ghost Ballers and Trilogy on July 30, 2017, at the American Airlines Center in Dallas, TX. Trilogy won the game 51-36.. (Photo by Matthew Visinsky/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)
Image zoomed in by Slate. Photo by Matthew Visinsky/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images.
Here is a still of the man Kwatinetz and Avenatti say is Al-Rumaihi, in the elevator with Cohen on Dec. 12, 2016:

Screen capture of Michael Cohen and a man who might be Ahmed Al-Rumaihi on Dec. 12, 2016.
Screen Capture from C-SPAN
Here is footage compiled from C-SPAN’s Trump Tower live feed of Cohen entering the elevator with the figure who appears to be Al-Rumaihi:


Here is footage of the figure who appears to be Al-Rumaihi leaving Trump Tower less than 90 minutes after entering with Cohen.


Here is footage from multiple feeds of Flynn coming down 12 minutes after Al-Rumaihi’s apparent exit, loitering in the lobby for a bit, and waiting to meet with Cohen and Perry a few minutes later:



Last week Kwatinetz, in a sworn declaration filed as part of pending litigation against Al-Rumaihi and a number of BIG3 investors, said that the former Qatari diplomat offered him a bribe for an introduction to Kwatinetz’s friend Steve Bannon during a private hike in January 2018. Kwatinetz claimed in the declaration that he rejected the bribe and told Al-Rumaihi that Bannon would never accept one. At this point, he said Al-Rumaihi “laughed and then stated to me that I shouldn’t be naive, that so many Washington politicians take our money, and stated ‘Do you think [Michael] Flynn turned down our money?’ ”

Al-Rumaihi’s name was also attached to a 90-day $2.5 million lobbying contract with the Ashcroft Law Firm in the summer of 2017, three weeks before he and his investing partners approached Kwatinetz and BIG3. A spokesman for Al-Rumaihi’s sports group has called Kwatinetz’s claims “xenophobic” and “meritless.”

The photos of Al-Rumaihi in Trump Tower come on the heels of news last week, initially revealed by Avenatti and later confirmed by the New York Times and NBC News, that Cohen in the initial months of the Trump presidency had accepted a $500,000 payment from a subsidiary investment arm of a firm owned by Viktor Vekselberg, a Russian oligarch and purported Putin ally who was later sanctioned. (The firm, run by Vekselberg’s cousin, has denied Vekselberg’s involvement in the payment.) That payment was made to the same shell company established by Cohen to pay Daniels $130,000 in exchange for the hush agreement.

The latest revelations could prompt more questions for Flynn, who last year pleaded guilty to lying to investigators and is cooperating with the special counsel’s probe. It also opens the door to possibly corroborate Flynn’s meeting accounts with other potential witnesses, namely Cohen, Perry, and potentially Ahmed Al-Rumaihi.
https://slate.com/news-and-politics/201 ... l_dt_tw_ru
The only card he has left to play is his resignation
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Re: Trump Intelligence Allegations THE DOSSIER

Postby seemslikeadream » Sun May 27, 2018 11:02 am

Clapper: 'More and more' of Steele dossier proving to be true
BY JOHN BOWDEN - 05/26/18 03:23 PM EDT 1,572
2,832


Clapper: 'More and more' of Steele dossier proving to be true
© Greg Nash
Former Director of National Intelligence James Clapper said more of the so-called Steele dossier's claims are proving to be true.

In an interview with Salon, Clapper said the dossier, part of which lays out alleged ties between the Trump campaign and Russia, has been corroborated by subsequent U.S. investigations.

The Obama-era intelligence chief stressed that while the most "salacious" claims in the dossier have not been proven to be true, "more and more" of the dossier's other allegations about President Trump and his allies' ties to Russia have been backed up over time.


"Some of what was in the dossier was actually corroborated — but separately — in our intelligence community assessment, from other sources that we were confident in," Clapper said.

"The salacious parts, no. That’s never been corroborated," he added. "It would appear to me that as time has gone on more and more of it has been corroborated, but I can’t actually give you a percentage."

The dossier, which was created by former British intelligence agent Christopher Steele as part of his work for political intelligence firm Fusion GPS, had circulated in media circles before being published in full by BuzzFeed News in January 2017.

Clapper stressed that the dossier was never used as a source for the 2017 intelligence community assessment that stated the Russians interfered in the election for the purpose of damaging Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton and aiding Trump.

"Well, some of what was in the dossier … first of all, I need to make an important point here. We did not use the dossier as a source for the intelligence community assessment, that’s point one," Clapper said.

"The dossier is not classified or an intelligence document," he continued. "It’s actually a collection of 17 separate memos."

Republicans have frequently pointed to the dossier as proof that the FBI investigation into Trump's campaign began with political motivations, as the Fusion GPS investigation was funded in part by lawyers for the DNC and the Clinton campaign.

Trump has erroneously accused the FBI and Clapper over the last several days of planting a spy in his campaign after it was revealed the agency used a confidential informant to contact several members of the Trump campaign.
http://thehill.com/policy/national-secu ... to-be-true
The only card he has left to play is his resignation
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Re: Trump Intelligence Allegations THE DOSSIER

Postby seemslikeadream » Mon Jun 04, 2018 12:42 pm

JUNE 04, 2018 8:23am PT by Eriq Gardner
BuzzFeed Allowed Key Defense in Russian's Defamation Suit Over Trump Dossier

A Florida judge rejects a Russian entrepreneur who argued that the Trump dossier publication wasn't protected as a fair report of official government action.

Courtesy of BuzzFeed

A Florida judge rejects a Russian entrepreneur who argued that the Trump dossier publication wasn't protected as a fair report of official government action.
In its continuing fight against a Russian tech entrepreneur who alleges being defamed by the publication of the infamous Trump dossier, BuzzFeed has scored an important ruling in Florida court that may ultimately immunize the news site from liability.

Aleksej Gubarev is suing BuzzFeed and editor Ben Smith for publishing the entire Trump dossier in January 2017, just days before Donald Trump became president of the United States. Although the spy report prepared by former British spy Christopher Steele gained most attention for its allegations that Trump's campaign coordinated with Russians and its salacious details about Trump's supposed romps with prostitutes, Gubarev is particularly upset by the portion of the dossier that suggests his firm used "botnets and porn traffic" to conduct cyber operations against Democratic Party leadership.

One of the affirmative defenses raised by BuzzFeed in reaction to Gubarev's lawsuit is that the news site has what's called a "Fair Report Privilege," referring to a doctrine that allows journalists to report on government activity without having to verify the truth of what's in goverment documents and proceedings.

After deciding to analyze the issue under the law of New York rather than Florida, U.S. District Court Judge Ursula Ungaro examines whether the Trump dossier actually had a relationship to any official proceeding at the time it was published.

Ungaro notes that the plaintiffs take a narrow view of "official proceeding," arguing there has to be an an "actual investigation" while BuzzFeed argues that an official proceeding can occur whenever persons empowered to take actions make efforts to do so.

The judge agrees with BuzzFeed but then says the protection is only available if an ordinary reader of the article would have concluded there was a classified briefing about what was in the dossier or an FBI investigation concerning the truth of the dossier's allegations.

The BuzzFeed article in question didn't address this other than by hyperlinking to a CNN article that described confidential briefings.

The judge asks, "The question then is: would an ordinary reader of the Article conclude that the dossier was subject to these official actions when these official actions are mentioned only in the hyperlinked CNN article?"

Ungaro writes there's not much case law on the topic. But she points to one decision from the Supreme Court of Nevada and rules that "BuzzFeed can satisfy the fair report privilege by conspicuously hyperlinking to the CNN article."

"The hyperlink here is conspicious," she continues. "It appears in the body of the Article, within the words 'CNN reported,' which are written in blue. Thus, when BuzzFeed published the dossier, it explained (via the hyperlink) that the dossier was the subject of official actions in the form of classified briefings by four intelligence directors to the President and President-elect, and an FBI investigaiton."

Read the judge's decision in full here.

Gubarev argued that even if there was an official action, it wouldn't matter unless the specific allegations directed his way published in the dossier were tied to this government proceeding. But Ungaro responds that the cyber-operations scheme certainly fits into what was briefed by government officials, adding, "Regardless, it would undermine the privilege to require that one who reports on official action tie every specific allegation in the report to a specific instance of official action."

"For these reasons, the Court cannot conclude as a matter of law that the Article is other than a fair and true report of an official proceeding," Ungaro continues. "This does not dispose of the case, however, because application turns on whether facts essential to its application are indisputed. At these stage, the Court takes as true that the official actions described in the CNN article (the classified briefings and FBI investigation) actually occurred. If discovery reveals that they did not, then there was, in fact, no official action."

On the other hand, if classified briefings did occur as others have confirmed since CNN's initial report, BuzzFeed seems to be in strong position to prevail in this case.
https://www.hollywoodreporter.com/thr-e ... er-1116737
The only card he has left to play is his resignation
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Re: Trump Intelligence Allegations THE DOSSIER

Postby seemslikeadream » Tue Aug 21, 2018 4:42 pm

A DC Judge Has Dismissed Russian Bankers' Lawsuit Against The Author Of The Trump Dossier

The lawsuit against Christopher Steele is one of several that came out of the dossier's preparation and publication.

Headshot of Chris Geidner
Chris Geidner
BuzzFeed News Reporter
Posted on August 21, 2018, at 3:32 p.m. ET

Victoria Jones / Newscom
A judge in Washington, DC, has tossed out a defamation lawsuit brought by three Russian oligarchs against former British intelligence agent Christopher Steele over his discussion of them in the dossier he prepared during the 2016 US presidential election campaign describing Donald Trump's links to Russia.

The men — Petr Aven, Mikhail Fridman, and German Khan — are investors in Alfa Bank and had sued Steele and his company, Orbis Business Intelligence, alleging that the dossier defamed them by linking them to Russian efforts regarding the presidential election.

The trio also has filed suit in federal court against Fusion GPS and Glenn Simpson, who had hired Steele, and in state court in New York against BuzzFeed, which published the dossier in January 2017.

DC Superior Court Judge Anthony C. Epstein dismissed the case against Steele under DC's Anti-SLAPP Act. Anti-SLAPP laws are aimed at providing protections for would-be defendants who are the targets of "strategic lawsuits against public participation."

In Monday's ruling, Epstein found that Steele's activity was covered under the law as a matter of public interest and that the three oligarchs suing Steele were "limited-purpose public figures" by virtue of their potential involvement with Russian government officials.

Because of those findings, the court then considered under the Anti-SLAPP Act whether the oligarchs could succeed in showing that Steele acted with "actual malice" — with knowledge that the information he wrote about them was false or with "reckless disregard" for whether it was false.

Epstein found the trio did not meet their burden to show evidence that they would be likely to succeed in proving that the part of the dossier involving Alfa Bank — called "CIR 112" — was published by Steele with actual malice.

"Plaintiffs do not offer evidence that Mr. Steele in fact had subjective doubts or recklessly disregarded information about its falsity, or that Defendants had obvious reason to doubt the source described in CIR 112 as a 'trusted compatriot' of a 'top level Russian government official,'" the judge wrote.

"We strongly disagree with the Court’s decision which we will almost certainly appeal," Alan Lewis, one of the oligarchs' lawyers, told BuzzFeed News in an email on Tuesday. "We are, however, pleased that the Court agreed that we have adequately proved Mr. Steele’s negligence in making unsupported accusations that our clients had something to do with alleged efforts to interfere in the 2016 election — which they did not. We respectfully disagree with Judge Epstein on a number of points and are confident that the appellate court will reinstate the Plaintiffs' claims."

In the ruling, Epstein wrote that Steele's lack of "supporting facts" to support claims in the dossier "may establish negligence," but Epstein went on to say that such a finding would be irrelevant because "negligence is constitutionally insufficient to show the recklessness that is required for a finding of actual malice." The judge noted that, under that standard, "it is not enough to show that defendant should have known better; instead, the plaintiff must offer evidence that the defendant in fact harbored subjective doubt."

In a later email, Lewis wrote that that passage carried "the strong implication ... we have adequately proved Steele’s negligence ... and that, if the court had found our clients to be private figures (subject to a negligence standard) rather than public figures (subject to an actual malice standard) it would not have" dismissed the lawsuit.
https://www.buzzfeednews.com/article/ch ... gainst-the


Christopher Steele’s Victory in a D.C. Court

A D.C. judge has dismissed a defamation suit filed by Russia’s Alfa Bank against the former British intelligence officer and author of the dossier alleging ties between Russia and the Trump campaign.

Natasha Bertrand is a staff writer at The Atlantic where she covers national security and the intelligence community.
3:34 PM ET

Christopher SteeleVictoria Jones / Press Association via AP
The author of the explosive dossier outlining the president’s alleged ties to Russia won an important legal victory on Monday, when a judge dismissed a defamation lawsuit brought against his firm by the co-founders of Russia’s largest private bank.


In his decision to toss the case “with prejudice”—that is, permanently—Judge Anthony C. Epstein of the Washington, D.C. Superior Court concluded that the author of the dossier, former British intelligence officer agent Christopher Steele, acted “in furtherance of the right of advocacy on issues of public interest” when he decided to brief reporters on the dossier’s findings in the summer of 2016. Steele’s conduct is therefore protected by “anti-SLAPP” statutes, according to the judge, which aim to halt lawsuits brought to chill the exercise of constitutionally protected free speech.



In a statement, Steele’s lawyer Christy Hull Eikhoff told me that they were “thrilled” with the outcome. "We will continue to defend against baseless attacks on Chris and his company, Orbis, and hope that the result of this case will be a lesson to those who seek to intimidate Chris and his company." Alan Lewis, a lawyer representing Alfa’s co-founders—Mikhail Fridman, German Kahn, and Petr Aven—said they “strongly” disagreed with the court’s decision and planned to appeal.


Judge Epstein’s decision in the lawsuit did not consider whether the dossier was accurate or inaccurate. But his conclusion offered the first authoritative response to questions that have been raised by President Trump’s Republican allies about the propriety of Steele discussing the dossier with reporters prior to the 2016 election.

Trump’s relentless assault on special prosecutor Robert Mueller’s investigation into possible ties between the Trump campaign and Russia as a “witch hunt” begins with the dossier, which the president and Congressional Republicans consider the probe’s proximate cause. They characterize the document as a scurrilously inaccurate attack funded by Hillary Clinton’s campaign.


According to Judge Epstein, the dossier “as a whole plainly concerns an issue of public interest...because it relates to possible Russian interference within the 2016 election.” Steele has made a similar argument with regard to his decision to pause his coordination with the FBI and brief the media directly on his findings in September and October of 2016, according to people familiar with his thinking: While he never intended for the dossier itself to be made public—he has said he was “horrified” when BuzzFeed published it in full—he believed the public had a dire need to know the broad outlines of a potential conspiracy between the Trump campaign and Russia, and the FBI had no plans to make such details known. “The Steele dossier generated so much attention and interest in the United States precisely because its content relates to active public debates here,” Epstein wrote.

Alfa Bank and its co-founders Fridman, Aven, and Khan played a fairly limited role in the dossier. Steele devoted a small section to outlining what his source—a “trusted compatriot” of a “top level Russian government official”—had described as Alfa’s “close relationship with” Russian President Vladimir Putin and the “significant favors” exchanged between them, including Alfa’s allegedly “illicit” cash deliveries to Putin throughout the 1990’s.


The dossier goes on to say that Fridman and Aven gave “informal advice to Putin on foreign policy, and especially about the U.S.” throughout 2016, but stopped short of linking Alfa to Russia’s election interference. Alfa and its co-founders have denied engaging in any improper conduct.

In court documents, the Alfa plaintiffs have argued two seemingly contradictory points: first, that Steele implied they had been involved in a Trump-Russia conspiracy, and second, that the section of the dossier dealing with the bank was not in the public interest because it did not mention a specific candidate or the 2016 presidential election. Epstein caught this, and wrote that Alfa Bank could not, on the one hand, contend that Steele accused them of cooperating with Russia’s election interference, while on the other hand saying such an explosive revelation would not be in the public interest, he wrote.


The judge also called it “ironic” that Alfa’s co-founders, “who are non-resident aliens with Russian and/or Israeli citizenship,” had argued that non-resident aliens like Steele, who is a British national, don’t have First Amendment rights—even as the co-founders themselves were “ petitioning a U.S. court for a redress of their grievances and invoking a constitutional right to conduct discovery...Plaintiffs do not explain why non-resident aliens have the same right as U.S. citizens to bring defamation actions, but non-resident aliens do not have the same rights as U.S. citizens to defend themselves,” Epstein wrote in a footnote.


Epstein found that Steele was “engaging in speculation” to the extent that the dossier suggests Alfa was involved in Russia’s election interference. Lewis, the plaintiffs’ lawyer, seized on that comment, writing in a statement that they are “pleased that the Court agreed that we have adequately proved Mr. Steele’s negligence in making unsupported accusations that our clients had something to do with alleged efforts to interfere in the 2016 election—which they did not.” Still, even Steele’s “subjective view, interpretation, theory or conjecture” is protected under the First Amendment, according to Epstein.

The fact that Judge Epstein characterized the lawsuit against Steele as a “SLAPP” action is also significant. Alfa has brought similar defamation suits against Fusion GPS, the opposition research firm that hired Steele, and BuzzFeed, which published the dossier in full in January 2017. (Alfa also hired American lawyers—one of whom, Brian Benczkowski, was just confirmed as the head of the Justice Department’s National Security Division—to help clear its name following reports that its servers communicated with Trump Tower servers during the election.) It is unclear whether those suits will face a similar fate. Ultimately, Epstein said, Alfa failed to provide evidence that Steele acted with “actual malice”—that is, that he “knew the information was false or acted with reckless disregard for its falsity.”


Having successfully argued that his work was in the public interest, Steele was afforded the protection of anti-SLAPP statutes and the burden was shifted to Alfa to prove that Steele knew the information was either fabricated or came from a highly unreliable source. Epstein said that Alfa had failed to do so, and noted that, with regard to Steele’s assertion that Alfa had been “dogged by allegations of corruption and illegal conduct,” Fridman himself had acknowledged in the past that the “rules of business” in Russia “are quite different to western standards” and to “be completely clean and transparent is not realistic.”

https://www.theatlantic.com/politics/ar ... rt/568057/
The only card he has left to play is his resignation
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Re: Trump Intelligence Allegations THE DOSSIER

Postby seemslikeadream » Thu Aug 30, 2018 9:57 am

THE STEELE DOSSIER

What is the Dossier?

In January 2017, BuzzFeed News published an intelligence dossier developed by a former British MI6 intelligence officer who was deemed credible by U.S. intelligence officials. The Dossier raises profoundly disturbing questions about whether there was improper contact between the Trump campaign and the Russian government and about the existence of compromising personal and financial information about Donald Trump. At the time BuzzFeed published the Dossier, it acknowledged that the allegations it contained were “unverified” and that the document contained “some clear errors.”

BuzzFeed’s decision to publish the Dossier has itself attracted a lot of attention. The Dossier is part of ongoing lawsuits filed by parties named in the dossier and may be part of congressional investigations.

Why is it Important?

The Dossier is a human intelligence document or [HUMINT] and therefore should be viewed not as evidence in a trial, but as a road map for investigators. The dossier’s high level of accuracy is rapidly becoming clear.

There are significant takeaways that are largely absent from the conversation about the Dossier:

Christopher Steele is credible. Steele was not just a former UK MI-6 officer; he also worked on behalf of the FBI in the successful FIFA investigation.
Steele and the Dossier were credible enough for former FBI Director James Comey and Director of National Intelligence James Clapper to brief President Obama and then-President elect Trump on the contents of the dossier.
Steele was writing the Dossier in real time and it largely contains intelligence related to internal Russian efforts to interfere, not intelligence about the Trump campaign.
Steele was concerned about his safety after the Dossier was released and went into hiding.
While much attention has gone to the salacious tape described in the Dossier, more should be paid to the allegation that for at least 5 years Trump was passing information on Russians living at his properties to Russian intelligence operatives. Steele cites four different sources – a former senior Russian intelligence figure (who is believed to have been murdered in his car on December 26, 2016), a current senior Russian foreign ministry figure, and two Russian emigres; these sources all indicate that Trump had a relationship with Russian intelligence and was providing information on the comings and goings of Russians at his properties. We know that Trump had a vast surveillance system of his properties, and that President Putin and Russian intelligence keep a close tab on Russian oligarchs. We also have separate press reporting that UK, Dutch, French, German, Estonian, and Australian intelligence agencies picked up intelligence on meetings between Trump associates and Russian intelligence going back to 2015.
Below is the searchable Dossier in full as published by Buzzfeed.

It should be assumed that all allegations below remain unsubstantiated until corroborated by independent information.

We have redacted certain lines from the dossier that are both unsubstantiated and profane. All redactions are noted below, and a full version of the text can be found at BuzzFeed News. If these allegations are proven true, they will be added to the site.

COMPANY INTELLIGENCE REPORT 2016/080

US PRESIDENTIAL ELECTION: REPUBLICAN CANDIDATE DONALD TRUMP’S ACTIVITIES IN RUSSIA AND COMPROMISING RELATIONSHIP WITH THE KREMLIN

Summary

-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 [REDACTED BY THE MOSCOW PROJECT] arranged/ monitored by the FSB

-A dossier of compromising material 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

Detail

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 ideals-based international order established after World War Two. S/he had overheard PUTIN talking in this way to close associates on several occasions.
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 his 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, for reasons unknown, TRUMP had not taken up any of these.
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 [REDACTED BY THE MOSCOW PROJECT] in order to obtain suitable ‘kompromat’ (compromising material) on him. According to Source D, where s/he had been present, TRUMP’S [REDACTED BY THE MOSCOW PROJECT] 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 [REDACTED BY THE MOSCOW PROJECT]. 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.
The Moscow Ritz Carlton episode involving TRUMP reported above was confirmed by Source E, [REDACTED BY BUZZFEED NEWS], 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.
Asked about the Kremlin’s reported intelligence feed to TRUMP over recent years and rumours about a Russian dossier of ‘kornpromat’ 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 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 positions on various issues. Others were most probably from phone intercepts.
Continuing on this theme, Source G, a senior Kremlin official, confided that the CLINTON dossier was controlled exclusively by Chief Kremlin spokesman, Dmitriy PESKOV, who was responsible for compiling/handling it on the explicit instructions of PUTIN The dossier 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.
20 June 2016

COMPANY INTELLIGENCE REPORT 2016/086

RUSSIA/CYBER CRIME: A SYNOPSIS OF RUSSIAN STATE SPONSORED AND OTHER CYBER OFFENSIVE (CRIMINAL) OPERATIONS

Summary

-Russia has extensive programme of state-sponsored offensive cyber operations. External targets include foreign governments and big corporations, especially banks. FSB leads on cyber within Russian apparatus. Limited success in attacking top foreign targets like G7 governments, security services and IFIs but much more on second tier ones through IT back doors, using corporate and other visitors to Russia

-FSB often uses coercion and blackmail to recruit most capable cyber operatives in Russia into its state sponsored programmes. Heavy use also, both wittingly and unwittingly, of CIS emigres working in western corporations and ethnic Russians employed by neighbouring governments e.g. Latvia

-Example cited of successful Russian cyber operation targeting senior Western business visitor. Provided back door into important Western institutions.

-Example given of US citizen of Russian origin approached by FSB and offered incentive of “investment” in his business when visiting Moscow.

-Problems however for Russian authorities themselves in countering local hackers and cyber criminals, operating outside state control. Central Bank claims there were over 20 serious attacks on correspondent accounts held by CBR in 2015, comprising Roubles several billion in fraud

-Some details given of leading non-state Russian cyber criminal groups

Details

Speaking in June 2016, a number of Russian figures with a detailed knowledge of national cyber crime, both state-sponsored and otherwise, outlined the current situation in this area. A former senior intelligence officer divided Russian state-sponsored offensive cyber operations into four categories (in order of priority):- targeting foreign, especially western governments; penetrating leading foreign business corporations, especially banks; domestic monitoring of the elite; and attacking political opponents both at home and abroad. The former intelligence officer reported that the Federal Security Service (FSB) was the lead organization within the Russian state apparatus for cyber operations.
In terms of the success of Russian offensive cyber operations to date, a senior government figure reported that there had been only limited success in penetrating the ‘first tier’ foreign targets. These comprised western (especially G7 and NATO) governments, security and intelligence services and central banks, and the IFIs. To compensate for this shortfall, massive effort had been invested, with much greater success, in attacking the “secondary targets”, particularly western private banks and the governments of smaller states allied to the West. S/he mentioned Latvia in this regard. Hundreds of agents, either consciously cooperating with the FSB or whose personal and professional IT systems had been unwittingly compromised, were recruited. Many were people who had ethnic and family ties to Russia and/or had been incentivized financially to cooperate. Such people often would receive monetary inducements or contractual favours from the Russian state or its agents in return. This had created difficulties for parts of the Russian state apparatus in obliging/indulging them e.g. the Central Bank of Russia knowingly having to cover up for such agents’ money laundering operations through the Russian financial system.
In terms of the FSB’s recruitment of capable cyber operatives to carry out its, ideally deniable, offensive cyber operations, a Russian IT specialist with direct knowledge reported in June 2016 that this was often done using coercion and blackmail. In terms of ‘foreign’ agents, the FSB was approaching US citizens of Russian (Jewish) origin on business trips to Russia. In one case a US citizen of Russian ethnicity had been visiting Moscow to attract investors in his new information technology program. The FSB clearly knew this and had offered to provide seed capital to this person in return for them being able to access and modify his IP, with a view to targeting priority foreign targets by planting a Trojan virus in the software. The US visitor was told this was common practice. The FSB also had implied significant operational success as a result of installing cheap Russian IT games containing their own malware unwittingly by targets on their PCs and other platforms.
In a more advanced and successful FSB operation, an IT operator inside a leading Russian SOE, who previously had been employed on conventional (defensive) IT work there, had been under instruction for the last year to conduct an offensive cyber operation against a foreign director of the company. Although the latter was apparently an infrequent visitor to Russia, the FSB now successfully had penetrated his personal IT and through this had managed to access various important institutions in the West through the back door.
In terms of other technical IT platforms, an FSB cyber operative flagged up the ‘Telegram’ enciphered commercial system as having been of especial concern and therefore heavily targeted by the FSB, not least because it was used frequently by Russian internal political activists and oppositionists. His/her understanding was that the FSB now successfully had cracked this communications software and therefore it was no longer secure to use.
The senior Russian government figure cited above also reported that non-state sponsored cyber crime was becoming an increasing problem inside Russia for the government and authorities there. The Central Bank of Russia claimed that in 2015 alone there had been more than 20 attempts at serious cyber embezzlement of money from corresponding accounts held there, comprising several billions Roubles. More generally, s/he understood there were circa 15 major organised crime groups in the country involved in cyber crime, all of which continued to operate largely outside state and FSB control. These included the so-called ‘Anunak’, ‘Buktrap’ and ‘Metel’ organisations.
26 July 2015

COMPANY INTELLIGENCE REPORT 2016/095

RUSSIA/US PRESIDENTIAL ELECTION: FURTHER INDICATIONS OF EXTENSIVE CONSPIRACY BETWEEN TRUMP’S CAMPAIGN TEAM AND THE KREMLIN

Summary

-Further evidence of extensive conspiracy between 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 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 US

-Mechanism for transmitting this intelligence involves ‘pension’ disbursements to Russian emigres living in US as cover, using consular officials in New York, DC and Miami

-Suggestion from source close to TRUMP and MANAFORT that Republican campaign team happy to have Russia as media bogeyman to mask more extensive corrupt business ties to China and other emerging countries

Detail

Speaking in confidence to a compatriot in late July 2016, Source E, an ethnic Russian close associate of Republican US presidential candidate Donald Trump, admitted that there was a well-developed conspiracy of co-operation 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, whom President PUTIN apparently both hated and feared.
Inter alia, 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 cauterise the subject.
In the wider context of TRUMP campaign/Kremlin co-operation, 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 emigre and associated offensive cyber operators based in the U.S.; and thirdly, state- sponsored cyber 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 Russian diplomatic staff in key cities such as New York, Washington DC and Miami were using the ’emigre’ ‘pension’ distribution system as cover. The operation therefore depended on key people in the US Russian emigre community for its success. Tens of thousands of dollars were involved.
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.
Commenting on the negative media publicity surrounding alleged Russian interference in the U.S. 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 Democrats’ attention away from Trump’s business dealings in China and other emerging markets. Unlike in Russia, these were substantial and involved the payment of large bribes and kickbacks which, were they to become public, would be potentially very damaging to their campaign.
Finally, regarding TRUMP’s claimed minimal investment profile in Russia, a separate source with direct knowledge said this had not been for want of trying. TRUMP’s previous efforts had included 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 [REDACTED BY THE MOSCOW PROJECT] rather than business success.
COMPANY INTELLIGENCE REPORT 2016/94

RUSSIA: SECRET KREMLIN MEETINGS ATTENDED BY TRUMP ADVISOR, CARTER PAGE IN MOSCOW (JULY 2016)

Summary

-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 co-operation and associated lifting of western sanctions against Russia over Ukraine. PAGE non-committal in response

–DIVEYKIN discusses release of Russian dossier of ‘kompromat’ on TRUMP’s opponent, Hillary CLINTON, but also hints at Kremlin possession of such material on TRUMP

Detail

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 presidential candidate Donald TRUMP, Carter PAGE.
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 by SECHIN but had been generally non-committal in response.
Speaking separately, also in July 2016, an official close to Presidential Administration Head, 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 DIVEYKIN raising a dossier of ‘kompromat’ the Kremlin possessed on Democratic presidential rival, Hillary CLINTON, and its possible release to the Republican’s campaign team.
However, the Kremlin official close to IVANOV added that s/he believed DIVEYKIN 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.
19 July 2016

COMPANY INTELLIGENCE REPORT 2016/097

RUSSIA-US PRESIDENTIAL ELECTION: KREMLIN CONCERN THAT POLITICAL FALLOUT FROM DNC E-MAIL HACKING AFFAIR SPIRALLING OUT OF CONTROL

Summary

-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 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 co-operation forthcoming from his team

Detail

Speaking in confidence to a trusted associate in late July 2016, a Russian emigre figure close to the Republican US presidential candidate Donald TRUMP’s campaign team commented on the fallout from publicity surrounding the Democratic National Committee (DNC) e-mail hacking scandal. The emigre said there was a high level of anxiety within the TRUMP team as a result of various accusations levelled against them and indications from the Kremlin that President PUTIN and others in the leadership thought things had gone too far now and risked spiralling out of control.
Continuing on this theme, the emigre 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.
However, in terms of established operational liaison between the TRUMP team and the Kremlin, the emigre 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.
Finally, the emigre said s/he understood the Kremlin had more intelligence on CLINTON and her campaign but he 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 its word that it would not be deployed against the Republican presidential candidate given how helpful and co-operative his team had been over several years, and particularly of late.
30 July 2016

COMPANY INTELLIGENCE REPORT 2016/100

RUSSIA/USA GROWING BACKLASH IN KREMLIN TO DNC HACKING AND TRUMP SUPPORT OPERATIONS

Summary

-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

Detail

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 Dmitriy 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”.
Continuing on this theme the source close to IVANOV reported that PESKOV now was “scared shitless” that he would be scapegoated by PUTIN and the Kremlin and held responsible for the backlash against Russian political interference in the US election. IVANOV was determined to stop PESKOV playing an independent role in relation 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).
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 Dmitriy 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 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.
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 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.
5 August 2016

COMPANY INTELLIGENCE REPORT 2016/101

RUSSIA/US PRESIDENTIAL ELECTION: SENIOR KREMLIN FIGURE OUTLINES EVOLVING RUSSIAN TACTICS IN PRO-TRUMP, ANTI-CLINTON OPERATION

Summary

-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 (Wiki Leaks) 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

Details

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 rumours and misinformation about the content of what already had been leaked and make up new content.
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 manoeuvre in the run-up to Russia’s own presidential election in 2018.
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 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 had refused to endorse any presidential candidates a result of Russian intervention.
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 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 adviser carter PAGE; and former DIA Director Michael Flynn, in this regard as successful in terms of perceived outcomes.
10 August 2016

COMPANY INTELLIGENCE REPORT 2016/102

RUSSIA/US PRESIDENTIAL ELECTION: REACTION IN TRUMP CAMP TO RECENT NEGATIVE PUBLICITY ABOUT RUSSIAN INTERFERENCE AND LIKELY RESULTING TACTICS GOING FORWARD

Summary

-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 result

-Need now to turn 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

Detail

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 activist 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, by TRUMP’s foreign policy adviser Carter PAGE who had discussed it directly with the ethnic Russian associate.
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 in the American television media to achieve this, as they reckoned this resource had been underused by them to date.
However, TRUMP’s associate also admitted that there was 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.
10 August 2016

COMPANY INTELLIGENCE REPORT 2016/136

RUSSIA/US PRESIDENTIAL ELECTION: FURTHER DETAILS OF TRUMP LAWYER COHEN’S SECRET LIAISON WITH THE KREMLIN

Summary

-Kremlin insider reports TRUMP lawyer COHEN’s secret meeting/s with Kremlin officials in August 2016 was/were held in Prague

-Russian parastatal organisation Rossotrudnichestvo 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 the August meeting/s with COHEN

Detail

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 organisation, 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.
The Kremlin insider went on to identify leading pro-PUTIN Duma figure, Konstantin KOSACHEV (Head of the Foreign Relations Committee) as an important figure in the TRUMP campaign-Kremlin liaison operation. KOSACHEV, also “plausibly deniable” being part of the Russian legislature rather than executive, had facilitated the contact in Prague and by implication, may have attended the meeting/s with COHEN there in August.
Company Comment

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 by 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.

20 October 2016

COMPANY INTELLIGENCE REPORT 2016/105

RUSSIA/UKRAINE: THE DEMISE OF TRUMP’S CAMPAIGN MANAGER PAUL MANAFORT

Summary

-Ex-Ukrainian President YANUKOVYCH confides directly to PUTIN that he authorised 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

Detail

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 authorise and order substantial kick-back payments to MANAFORT as alleged but sought to reassure him that there was no documentary trail left behind which could provide clear evidence of this.
Given YANUKOVYCH’s (unimpressive) record in covering up his own corrupt tracks in the past, PUTIN and others in the Russian leadership were sceptical about the ex-Ukrainian president’s reassurances on this as relating to MANAFORT. They therefore still feared the scandal had legs, especially as MANAFORT 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 political vulnerability and embarrassment.
Speaking separately, also in late August 2016, an American political figure associated with Donald TRUMP and his campaign outlined the reasons behind MANAFORT’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 MANAFORT 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.
22 August 2016

COMPANY INTELLIGENCE REPORT 2016/111

RUSSIA/US: KREMLIN FALLOUT FROM MEDIA EXPOSURE OF MOSCOW’S INTERFERENCE IN THE US PRESIDENTIAL CAMPAIGN

Summary

-Kremlin orders senior staff to remain silent in media and private on 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

-Russians 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 favourably 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 withdrawn from Washington embassy on account of potential exposure in US presidential election operation/s

Detail

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 favour of Donald TRUMP and against Hillary CLINTON, in the US presidential election. The PA official reported that 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.
Despite this, the PA official confirmed, from direct knowledge, that the gist of the 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, Sergei 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.
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, Dmitriy PESKOV remained a key figure in the operation, although any final decision on dissemination of further material would be taken by PUTIN
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 President 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 to be too close to call.
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 the so-called veterans’ pensions ruse (reported previously), would be exposed in the media there. His replacement, Andrei BONDAREV however was clean in this regard.
Company Comment

The substance of what was reported by the senior Russian PA official in paras 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.

14 September 2016

COMPANY INTELLIGENCE REPORT 2016/112

PRESIDENTIAL ELECTION: KREMLIN-ALPHA GROUP OPERATION (SEPTEMBER 14, 2016)

Summary

-Top level Russian official confirms current closeness of Alpha Group-PUTIN relationship. Significant favours continue to be done in both directions and FRIDMAN and AVEN still giving informal advice to PUTIN, especially on the US

-Key intermediary in PUTIN-Alpha relationship identified as Oleg GOVORUN, currently Head of a Presidential Administration department but throughout the 1990s, the Alpha 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

Detail

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 Mikhail FRIDMAN, Petr AVEN and German KHAN. The Russian government figure reported that although they had had their ups and downs, the leading figures in Alpha currently were on very good terms with PUTIN. Significant favours continued to be done in both directions, primarily political ones for PUTIN and business/legal ones for Alpha. Also, RIDMAN and AVEN continued to give informal advice to PUTIN on foreign policy, and especially about the US where he distrusted advice being given to him by officials.
Although FRIDMAN recently had met 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 Co-operation with the CIS. 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 FRIDMAN and AVEN to deliver large amounts of illicit cash to the Russian president, at that time deputy Mayor of St Petersburg. Given that and the continuing sensitivity of the relationship, and need for plausible deniability, much of the contact between them was now indirect and entrusted to the relatively low profile GOVORUN.
The top level Russian government official described the PUTlN-Alpha relationship as both carrot and stick. Alpha held ‘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.
14 September 2016

COMPANY INTELLIGENCE REPROT 2016/113

PRESIDENTIAL ELECTION: REPUBLICAN CANDIDATE PRIOR ACTIVITIES IN ST. PETERSBURG

Summary

-Two knowledgeable St Petersburg sources claim Republican candidate TRUMP has [REDACTED BY THE MOSCOW PROJECT] there but key witnesses silenced and evidence hard to obtain

-Both believe Azeri business associate of TRUMP, Araz AGALAROV will know the details

Detail

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.
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 [REDACTED BY THE MOSCOW PROJECT], but that all direct witnesses to this recently had been ‘silenced’ i.e. bribed or coerced to disappear.
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.
14 September 2016

COMPANY INTELLIGENCE REPORT 2016/130

RUSSIA: KREMLIN ASSESSMENT OF TRUMP AND RUSSIAN INTERFERENCE IN US PRESIDENTIAL ELECTION

Summary

-Buyer’s remorse sets in with Kremlin over TRUMP support operation in US presidential election. Russian leadership disappointed that leaked e-malls 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 public domain

–PUTIN angry with senior officials who ‘overpromised’ on TRUMP and further heads likely to roll as 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 Ministry to FSB and then to presidential administration where it now sits

Detail

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 setting 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 campaign.
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 already was out and there were no real game-changers to come.
The Russian Foreign Ministry official, who had direct access to the TRUMP support operation, reported that PUTIN was angry at his subordinate’s ‘over-promising’ on the Republican presidential 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 the easiest target. Ironically, despite his consistent urging of caution on the issue, Foreign Minister LAVROV could be the next one to go.
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 run for and be elected to another public office.
12 October 2016

COMPANY INTELLIGENCE REPORT 2016/134

RUSSIA/US PRESIDENTIAL ELECTION: FURTHER DETAILS OF KREMLIN LIAISON WITH TRUMP CAMPAIGN

Summary

-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 would win presidency up to l7 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

Detail

Speaking to a trusted compatriot in mid October 2015, a close associate of Rosneft President and PUTIN ally Igor SECHIN 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 had been confirmed to him/her by a senior member of staff, in addition to by the Rosneft President himself. It took place on 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 western sanctions imposed on the company, that he offered PAGE/TRUMP’s associates the brokerage of up to a 19 per cent (privatised) stake in Rosneft in return. PAGE had expressed interest and confirmed that were TRUMP elected US president, then sanctions on Russia would be lifted.
According to SECHIN’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 readapt accordingly and put feelers out to other business and political contacts in the US instead.
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 candidates personal lawyer Michael COHEN. [REDACTED BY BUZZFEED NEWS]
Source Comment

5. SECHIN’s associated opined that although PAGE had not stated it explicitly to SECHIN, he had clearly implied that in terms of his comment on TRUMP’s intention to lift Russian sanctions if elected president, he was speaking with the Republican candidate’s full authority.

Company Comment 6.

6.[REDACTED BY THE MOSCOW PROJECT]

18 October 2016

COMPANY INTELLIGENCE REPORT 2016/135

RUSSIA/US PRESIDENTIAL ELECTION: THE IMPORTANT ROLE OF TRUMP LAWYER, COHEN IN SECRET LIASON WITH THE KREMLIN

Summary

-Kremlin insider outlines important role played by 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 of IVANOV and appointments of VAINO and KIRIYENKO linked to need to cover up Kremlin’s TRUMP support operation

Detail

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 MANNAFORT as campaign manager in August 2016. Prior to that MANNAFORT 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 MANNAFORT’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 “to sweep it all under the carpet and make sure no connections could be fully established or proven”
Things had become even “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.
Referring back to the (surprise) sacking of Sergei IVANOV as 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.
Company Comment

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 erected in the PA as the TRUMP issue became more controversial and damaging. However s/he continued to try to obtain these.

19 October 2016

COMPANY INTELLIGENCE REPORT 2016/166

FURTHER DETAILS OF SECRET DIALOGUE BETWEEN TRUMP CAMPAIGN TEAM, KREMLIN, AND ASSOCIATED HACKERS IN PRAGUE

Summary

-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 election victory

-Some further details of Russian representatives/operatives involved; Romanian hackers employed; and use of Bulgaria as bolt hole to ‘lie low’

-Anti-CLINTON hackers and other operatives paid by both TRUMP team and Kremlin, but with ultimate loyalty to Head of PA, and his successor/s

Detail

We reported previously (2016/135 and /136) on secret meeting/s held in Prague, Czech Republic in August 2016 between then Republican presidential candidate Donald TRUMP’s representative, Michael COHEN and his interlocutors from the Kremlin working under cover of Russian NGO Rossotrudnichestvo
[REDACTED BY BUZZFEED NEWS] provided further details of these meeting/s and associated anti-CLINTON /Democratic Party operations. COHEN had been accompanied to Prague by 3 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 BY BUZZFEED NEWS] 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.
[REDACTED BY THE MOSCOW PROJECT] were significant players in this operation. In Prague, COHEN agreed 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 owed 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 TRUMP-Kremlin liaison had been exposed in the media in the run-up to Prague and that damage limitation of these also was discussed by COHEN with the Kremlin representatives).
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 neighbouring 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 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 in mid August.
https://themoscowproject.org/dossier/
The only card he has left to play is his resignation
— Neal Katyal

Is minic a bhris béal duine a shrón

Russian/Siberian Agent school girl Maria (NRA) Butina pleads guilty to CONSPIRACY against the U.S. and is cooperating with prosecutors
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