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
"THIS IS THE END OF MY PRESIDENCY. I'M F***ED"
- trump May 17, 2017


"Dotard is a 'Bulger' Rat

Why we do think that Mr. Trump owes a debt to Mr. Putin? Here are fifty reasons
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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.” ♦
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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
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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.
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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.
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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.
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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.”

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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/
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Re: Trump Intelligence Allegations THE DOSSIER

Postby seemslikeadream » Mon Dec 24, 2018 5:49 pm


The Steele Dossier: A Retrospective



The dossier compiled by former British intelligence officer Christopher Steele remains a subject of fascination—or, depending on your perspective, scorn. Indeed, it was much discussed during former FBI Director Jim Comey’s testimony in front of the House Judiciary Committee on Dec. 7. Published almost two years ago by BuzzFeed News in January 2017, the document received significant public attention, first for its lurid details regarding Donald Trump’s pre-presidential alleged sexual escapades in Russia and later for its role in forming part of the basis for the government’s application for a FISA warrant to surveil Carter Page.

Our interest in revisiting the compilation that has come to be called the “Steele Dossier” concerns neither of those topics, at least not directly. Rather, we returned to the document because we wondered whether information made public as a result of the Mueller investigation—and the passage of two years—has tended to buttress or diminish the crux of Steele’s original reporting.

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The dossier is actually a series of reports—16 in all—that total 35 pages. Written in 2016, the dossier is a collection of raw intelligence. Steele neither evaluated nor synthesized the intelligence. He neither made nor rendered bottom-line judgments. The dossier is, quite simply and by design, raw reporting, not a finished intelligence product.

In that sense, the dossier is similar to an FBI 302 form or a DEA 6 form. Both of those forms are used by special agents of the FBI and DEA, respectively, to record what they are told by witnesses during investigations. The substance of these memoranda can be true or false, but the recording of information is (or should be) accurate. In that sense, notes taken by a special agent have much in common with the notes that a journalist might take while covering a story—the substance of those notes could be true or false, depending on what the source tells the journalist, but the transcription should be accurate.

With that in mind, we thought it would be worthwhile to look back at the dossier and to assess, to the extent possible, how the substance of Steele’s reporting holds up over time. In this effort, we considered only information in the public domain from trustworthy and official government sources, including documents released by Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s office in connection with the criminal cases brought against Paul Manafort, the 12 Russian intelligence officers, the Internet Research Agency trolling operation and associated entities, Michael Cohen, Michael Flynn and George Papadopoulos. We also considered the draft statement of offense released by author Jerome Corsi, a memorandum released by House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence Ranking Member Adam Schiff related to the Carter Page FISA applications and admissions directly from certain speakers.

These materials buttress some of Steele’s reporting, both specifically and thematically. The dossier holds up well over time, and none of it, to our knowledge, has been disproven.

But much of the reporting simply remains uncorroborated, at least by the yardstick we are using. Most significantly, the dossier reports a “well-developed conspiracy of co-operation between [Trump and his associates] and the Russian leadership,” including an “intelligence exchange [that] had been running between them for at least 8 years.” There has been significant investigative reporting about long-standing connections between Trump, his associates and Kremlin-affiliated individuals, and Trump himself acknowledged that the purpose of a June 2016 meeting between his son, Donald Trump Jr. and a Kremlin-connected lawyer was to obtain “dirt” on Hillary Clinton. But there is, at present, no evidence in the official record that confirms other direct ties or their relevance to the 2016 presidential campaign. With that caveat, here are excerpts from the dossier that correspond with details contained in official documents.

The dossier reports:

Over the period March-September 2016 a company called [redacted] and its affiliates had been using botnets and porn traffic to transmit viruses, plant bugs, steal data and conduct “altering operations” against the Democratic Party leadership. Entities linked to one [redacted] were involved and he and another hacking expert, both recruited under duress by the FSB, [redacted] were significant players in this operation.

Additionally, it reports:

the Russian regime had been behind the recent leak of embarrassing email 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.

The indictment of 12 officers of the Russian Main Intelligence Directorate of the General Staff (GRU) corroborates these allegations from Steele’s sources. In particular, the indictment alleges:

3. Starting in at least March 2016, the Conspirators used a variety of means to hack the email accounts of volunteers and employees of the U.S. presidential campaign of Hillary Clinton (the “Clinton Campaign”), including the email account of the Clinton Campaign’s chairman.

4. By in or around April 2016, the Conspirators also hacked into the computer networks of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee (“DCCC”) and the Democratic National Committee (“DNC”). The Conspirators covertly monitored the computers of dozens of DCCC and DNC employees, implanted hundreds of files containing malicious computer code (“malware”), and stole emails and other documents from the DCCC and DNC.

5. By in or around April 2016, the Conspirators began to plan the release of materials stolen from the Clinton Campaign, DCCC, and DNC.

6. Beginning in or around June 2016, the Conspirators staged and released tens of thousands of the stolen emails and documents. They did so using fictitious online personas, including “DCLeaks” and “Guccifer 2.0.”

7. The Conspirators also used the Guccifer 2.0 persona to release additional stolen documents through a website maintained by an organization ([Wikileaks]), that had previously posted documents stolen from U.S. persons, entities, and the U.S. government. The Conspirators continued their U.S. election-interference operations through in or around November 2016.

The indictment further alleges:

On or about August 15, 2016, the Conspirators, posing as Guccifer 2.0, wrote to a person who was in regular contact with senior members of the presidential campaign of Donald J. Trump, “thank u for writing back … do you find anyt[h]ing interesting in the docs I posted?” On or about August 17, 2016, the Conspirators added, “please tell me if I can help u anyhow … it would be a great pleasure to me.” On or about September 9, 2016, the Conspirators, again posing as Guccifer 2.0 referred to a stolen DCCC document posted online and asked the person, “what do u think of the info on the turnout model for the democrats entire presidential campaign.” The person responded, “[p]retty standard.”

Trump advisor Roger Stone publicly acknowledged that he had communicated with Guccifer 2.0 and was likely the unnamed individual to whom the indictment refers.

While the GRU indictment does not provide any additional detail on communications between individuals associated with the Trump campaign and Guccifer 2.0 or Wikileaks, the draft statement of offense for Jerome Corsi does. Corsi, an author connected to Stone, publicly released the draft statement on Nov. 27, 2018.

The document states:

CORSI said that in the summer of 2016 an associate ([Roger Stone]) who CORSI understood to be in regular contact with senior members of the Trump Campaign, including with then-candidate Donald J. Trump, asked CORSI to get in touch with [Wikileaks] about materials it possessed relevant to the presidential campaign that had not already been released.



[A]fter [Stone] asked CORSI to get in touch with [Wikileaks], CORSI did not decline the request as he stated in the interview. Instead, CORSI contacted an individual who resided in London, England (“overseas individual”) to pass on [Stone’s] request to learn about materials in [Wikileaks’] possession that could be relevant to the presidential campaign. CORSI thereafter told [Stone] that [Wikileaks] possessed information that would be damaging to then-candidate Hillary Clinton and that [Wikileaks] planned to release damaging information in October 2016.

a. On or about July 25, 2016, [Stone] sent an email to CORSI with the subject line, “Get to [Wikileaks founder Julian Assange].” The body of the message read: “Get to [Assange] [a]t Ecuadorian Embassy in London and get the pending [Wikileaks] emails … they deal with [the Clinton Foundation], allegedly.” On or about the same day, CORSI forwarded [Stone’s] email to the overseas individual.

b. On or about July 31, 2016, [Stone] emailed CORSI with the subject line, “Call me MON.” The body of the email read in part that the overseas individual should see [Assange].”

c. On or about August 2, 2016, CORSI responded to [Stone] by email. CORSI wrote that he was currently in Europe and planned to return in mid-August. CORSI stated: “Word is friend in embassy plans 2 more dumps. One shortly after I’m back. 2nd in Oct. Impact planned to be very damaging …. Time to let more than [Clinton Campaign chairman John Podesta] be exposed as in bed w enemy if they are not ready to drop HRC [Hillary Rodham Clinton.] That appears to be the game hackers are now about. Would not hurt to start suggesting HRC old, memory bad, has stroke -- neither he nor she well. I expect that much of next dump focus, setting stage for Foundation debacle.”

In sum, the official record connects Russian intelligence—behind the guise of Guccifer 2.0—to Wikileaks and, to a lesser extent, to Stone. It also connects Corsi and Stone to Wikileaks. It does not, however, corroborate the statement in the dossier that the Russian intelligence “operation had been conducted with the full knowledge and support of Trump and senior members of his campaign team.” Put another way, Mueller and his team have not yet alleged or asserted in public filings that individuals associated with the Trump campaign knew that Guccifer 2.0 was a Russian intelligence cover and that the documents in Wikileaks’s possession came from Russian government hackers.

To date, the communications that draw the clearest line between the Russian government, hacked documents and the Trump campaign are detailed not in court filings, but rather in emails between Donald Trump Jr. and Rob Goldstone, a British-born former tabloid reporter and entertainment publicist. Trump Jr. released this correspondence in July 2017. In those emails, Goldstone wrote:

The Crown prosecutor of Russia met with [Aras Agalarov, an Azerbaijani-Russian billionaire property-developer] this morning and in their meeting offered to provide the Trump campaign with some official documents and information that would incriminate Hillary and her dealings with Russia and would be very useful to your father.

This is obviously very high level and sensitive information but is part of Russia and its government’s support for Mr. Trump – helped along by Aras and Emin [Agalarov].

Donald Trump Jr. responded, "… [I]f it’s what you say I love it especially later in the summer."

Aras Agalarov is connected, in the dossier, to Trump’s interest in Russian real estate:

Two well-placed sources based in St. Petersburg … 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 two St. Petersburg figures cited believe 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.

Another report in the dossier adds a layer: “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.”

That leads us to the material in the criminal information and sentencing memorandum for Michael Cohen—Trump’s former attorney—filed by the Special Counsel’s Office in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York. These documents relate to Cohen’s false statements to Congress regarding attempted Trump Organization business dealings in Russia. The details buttress Steele’s reporting to some extent, but mostly run parallel, neither corroborating nor disproving information in the dossier. They do, however, contradict the president’s many public statements on the matter.

The statement of information explains Cohen’s role in pursuing a deal to get a Trump-branded building in Moscow, in the midst of the presidential campaign. In July 2016, in an interview with a local TV news affiliate in Florida, then-candidate Trump said: “I mean I have nothing to do with Russia. I don’t have any jobs in Russia. I’m all over the world but we’re not involved in Russia.” But, as the statement of information in Cohen’s case reveals, Cohen and others within the Trump Organization were actively working on the Trump Tower Moscow project as late as June 2016:

The Moscow Project was discussed multiple times within the [Trump Organization] and did not end in January 2016. Instead, as late as approximately June 2016, COHEN and [Felix Sater, a Russian-American businessman and associate of President Trump] discussed efforts to obtain Russian governmental approval for the Moscow Project. COHEN discussed the status and progress of the Moscow Project with [Trump] on more than the three occasions COHEN claimed to the Committee, and he briefed family members of [Trump] within the Company about the project.
COHEN agreed to travel to Russia in connection with the Moscow Project and took steps in contemplation of [Trump’s] possible travel to Russia. COHEN and [Sater] discussed on multiple occasions traveling to Russia to pursue the Moscow Project.
COHEN asked [Trump] about the possibility of [Trump] traveling to Russia in connection with the Moscow Project, and asked a senior campaign official about potential business travel to Russia. (Emphasis added.)
Later, the document reports, "in or around January 2016, COHEN received a response from the office of [Dmitry Peskov], the Press Secretary for the President of Russia, and spoke to a member of that office about the Moscow Project."

Thus, the statement of information from Mueller’s office details substantial efforts by the Trump Organization to engage in business in Russia and to coordinate with the Russian government. But it does not allege election-related outreach. Additional details on that front, do, however, come in the special counsel’s sentencing memorandum:

The defendant also provided information about attempts by other Russian nationals to reach the campaign. For example, in or around November 2015, Cohen received the contact information for, and spoke with, a Russian national who claimed to be a “trusted person” in the Russian Federation who could offer the campaign “political synergy” and “synergy on a government level.” The defendant recalled that this person repeatedly proposed a meeting between [Trump] and the President of Russia. The person told Cohen that such a meeting could have a “phenomenal” impact “not only in political but in a business dimension as well,” referring to the Moscow Project, because there is “no bigger warranty in any project than consent of [Putin].” Cohen, however, did not follow up on this invitation.

The footnote accompanying the above text explains, "The defendant explained that he did not pursue the proposed meeting, which did not take place, in part because he was working on the Moscow Project with a different individual who Cohen understood to have his own connections to the Russian government."

While this builds on the general theme from the Steele dossier of Russian interest in helping Trump’s campaign, it does not indicate that this was a two-way street. Even with the additional detail from the Cohen documents, certain core allegations in the dossier related to Cohen—which, if true, would be of utmost relevance to Mueller’s investigation—remain largely unconfirmed, at least from the unredacted material. Specifically, the dossier reports that there was well-established, continuing cooperation between the Trump campaign and the Kremlin; that Cohen played a central role in the coordination of joint efforts; and that he traveled to Prague to meet with Russian officials and cut-outs. At most, one could speculate—and it would be just speculation—about what Mueller’s team means when they say Cohen “provided the [Special Counsel’s Office] with useful information concerning certain discrete Russia-related matters core to its investigation that he obtained by virtue of his regular contact with [Trump Organization] executives during the campaign.”

On Cohen’s substantial role in a conspiracy between the Trump campaign and the Kremlin related to the election, the dossier states:

[A] Kremlin insider highlighted the importance of Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump’s lawyer, Michael Cohen, in the ongoing secret liaison relationship between the New York tycoon’s campaign and the Russian leadership. Cohen’s role had grown following the departure of Paul Manafort as Trump’s campaign manager in August 2016. Prior to that Manafort had led for the Trump side.”



According to the Kremlin insider, Cohen now was heavily engaged in a cover up and damage limitation operation in the attempt to prevent the full details of Trump’s relationship with Russia being exposed.

Additionally, according to the dossier, Cohen attended one or more meetings with Russian interlocutors in Prague in late August 2016, accompanied by three colleagues. Steele’s sources indicated that Cohen met with Russian Presidential Administration Legal Department officials to discuss how to:

contain further scandals involving Manafort’s commercial and political role in Russia/Ukraine and to limit the damage arising from exposure of former Trump campaign foreign policy advisor, Carter Page’s secret meetings with Russian leadership figures the prior month.” The overall objective had been “to sweep it all under the carpet and make sure no connections could be fully established or proven.”

The reporting continues:

One of their main Russian interlocutors was Oleg Solodukhin operating under Rossotrudnichestvo [a Russian federal government agency that conducts cultural exchange activities] cover.… [T]he 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.

Again, the current public official record does not affirmatively corroborate the assertion that Cohen spearheaded, even for a short time, efforts by the Trump team to obtain unlawful election assistance from the Russian government. But neither does the absence of such detail mean that the dossier is false. For what it’s worth, Cohen strenuously denied ever traveling to Prague, though that denial preceded his guilty plea and (spotty) cooperation with the government.

Paul Manafort makes a few appearances in the dossier, including those described above. One report from July 2016 says:

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.

Elsewhere, Steele reports that former Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovych “confided in Putin that he did authorize 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.”

The official record supports this second allegation: Manafort’s work for, and bankrolling by, Yanukovych is at the core of the criminal charges against him—conduct he has admitted. The superseding indictment filed by Mueller’s office in the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia goes into extensive detail about Manafort’s ties to Yanukovych and other Ukrainian political and business interests, but in short:

Defendant PAUL J. MANAFORT, JR. (MANAFORT) served for years as a political consultant and lobbyist. Between at least 2006 and 2015, MANAFORT, through companies he ran, acted as an unregistered agent of a foreign government and foreign political parties. Specifically, he represented the Government of Ukraine, the President of Ukraine (Victor Yanukovych, who was President from 2010 to 2014), the Party of Regions (a Ukrainian political party led by Yanukovych), and the Opposition Bloc (a successor to the Party of Regions after Yanukovych fled to Russia in 2014).
MANAFORT generated tens of millions of dollars in income as a result of his Ukraine work. From approximately 2006 through 2017, MANAFORT, along with others including Richard W. Gates III (Gates), engaged in a scheme to hide the Ukraine income from United States authorities, while enjoying the use of the money.
Manafort’s ties to Ukraine are relevant to the Russia investigation, as most readers will know, because he worked closely with an individual—Konstantin Kilimnik, a named co-conspirator in the superseding indictment against Manafort and a star player in Mueller’s submission last week regarding Manafort’s breach of his plea deal—suspected of ties to Russian intelligence. Manafort and Kilimnick worked on behalf of pro-Russian parties and lobbied within the United States to advance what were not merely Ukrainian interests, but Russian interests as well. Among those interests, according to the dossier, were “sidelin[ing] Russian intervention in Ukraine as a campaign issue,” “deflect[ing] attention away from Ukraine,” and building political support in the U.S. for “lift[ing] Ukraine-related western sanctions against Russia.”

The Kremlin also pursued that last interest through, among others, Trump’s campaign advisor and first national security advisor, Michael Flynn. Flynn pleaded guilty in December 2017 to one count of making materially false statements to the FBI, in violation of 18 USC § 1001(a), and is due to be sentenced on Dec. 18. Among the things he lied about to the Special Counsel’s Office were his discussions with Russian ambassador Sergey Kislyak about the Trump administration’s intent to lift sanctions:

During the interview, FLYNN falsely stated that he did not ask Russia’s Ambassador to the United States (“Russian Ambassador”) to refrain from escalating the situation in response to sanctions that the United States had imposed on Russia. FLYNN also falsely stated that he did not remember a follow-up conversation in which the Russian Ambassador stated that Russia had chosen to moderate its response to those sanctions as a result of FLYNN’s request.

The dossier does not allege significant communications between Flynn and Kremlin-affiliated individuals during the campaign—as it does for Manafort, Cohen and Carter Page—but does remark upon Flynn’s visit to Moscow in December 2015. Steele reports:

[A] Kremlin official involved in US relations commented on aspects of the Russian operation to date. Its goals had been three-fold—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 advisor Carter Page; and former DIA Director Michael Flynn, in this regard and as successful in terms of perceived outcomes.

The redacted addendum to the sentencing memorandum filed by Mueller’s team in Flynn’s case explains that Flynn has cooperated extensively with the Special Counsel’s Office and provided information relevant to at least three different investigations: one criminal investigation, about which all information is redacted; the special counsel’s investigation into interactions between Russian government figures and the Trump campaign; and a third, completely redacted investigation. With respect to the special counsel’s investigation, the addendum notes that Flynn “assisted the [Special Counsel’s Office’s] investigation on a range of issues, including interactions between individuals in the Trump Transition Team and Russia,” and other topics which are redacted. This indicates that the relevant information Flynn is providing to Mueller’s team is not limited to the post-election discussions about sanctions relief about which he previously lied.

Notably absent from the dossier is any reference to George Papadopoulos, another Trump campaign foreign policy advisor who pleaded guilty last fall to lying to the FBI about his contacts during the campaign with individuals tied to the Russian government and recently served a 12-day sentence after proving himself unhelpful to the Special Counsel’s Office. (He was sentenced to 14 days but was released two days early, prior to a weekend.) The statement of offense asserts that over the first half of 2016, Papadopoulos had multiple in-person interactions and email communications with several individuals connected to the Russian government or whom Papadopoulos believed were connected to the Russian government, including a London-based professor, later identified as Joseph Mifsud; a female Russian national who was introduced as a relative of Russian president Vladimir Putin; the Russian ambassador in London; and an individual claiming to be affiliated with the Russian Ministry of Foreign Affairs. In April 2016, Papadopoulos learned from the professor that the Russians possessed “dirt” on Hillary Clinton, in the form of thousands of her emails. Over the course of approximately five months, strongly encouraged by his contacts, Papadopoulos aggressively pursued a meeting between Trump and/or senior campaign officials with Russian government officials. He communicated the idea and his progress on a number of occasions to various high-ranking Trump campaign officials. When interviewed by the FBI in January 2017 in the course of its investigation into Russian interference into the 2016 election, Papadopoulos lied about the extent, timing and nature of his communications with these individuals.

Again, Papadopoulos is not mentioned in the Steele dossier. We revisit his case because it resonates with one of the themes of the dossier, which is the extensive Russian outreach effort to an array of individuals connected to the Trump campaign. Steele’s sources reported on alleged interactions between Carter Page and Russian officials, but Papadopoulos’s conduct would have fit right in. In any event, Papadopoulos is noteworthy as the first figure in the Trump campaign—as far as we know—approached and informed by Russian proxies that the Russian government had obtained Clinton’s emails.

To conclude, we return to Carter Page, about whom there is a great deal in the dossier. We will not recount the details here because the allegations have not been corroborated in filings by Mueller’s team. The only nod at confirmation we have from an official source is a heavily-redacted memorandum from the House intelligence committee minority. In it, Ranking Member Schiff describes the FBI’s wholly independent basis for investigating Page’s long-established connections to Russia, aside from the Steele dossier, and emphasizes that the Justice Department possessed information “obtained through multiple independent sources that corroborated Steele’s reporting” with respect to Page.

As we noted, our interest is in assessing the Steele dossier as a raw intelligence document, not a finished piece of analysis. The Mueller investigation has clearly produced public records that confirm pieces of the dossier. And even where the details are not exact, the general thrust of Steele’s reporting seems credible in light of what we now know about extensive contacts between numerous individuals associated with the Trump campaign and Russian government officials.

However, there is also a good deal in the dossier that has not been corroborated in the official record and perhaps never will be—whether because it’s untrue, unimportant or too sensitive. As a raw intelligence document, the Steele dossier, we believe, holds up well so far. But surely there is more to come from Mueller’s team. We will return to it as the public record develops.
https://www.lawfareblog.com/steele-doss ... rospective
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Re: Trump Intelligence Allegations THE DOSSIER

Postby seemslikeadream » Thu Mar 14, 2019 9:04 pm

Tech Firm in Steele Dossier May Have Been Used by Russian Spies

March 14, 2019
Aleksej Gubarev, a Russian technology entrepreneur. New evidence suggests that Russian spies used networks run by Mr. Gubarev to hack the Democratic Party in 2016.Courtesy Aleksej Gubarev, via Associated Press


Aleksej Gubarev, a Russian technology entrepreneur. New evidence suggests that Russian spies used networks run by Mr. Gubarev to hack the Democratic Party in 2016.Courtesy Aleksej Gubarev, via Associated Press
WASHINGTON — Aleksej Gubarev is a Russian technology entrepreneur who runs companies in Europe and the United States that provide cut-rate internet service. But he is best known for his appearance in 2016 in a dossier that purported to detail Russia’s interference in the 2016 presidential election — and the Trump campaign’s complicity.

Mr. Gubarev’s companies, the dossier claimed, used “botnets and porn traffic to transmit viruses, plant bugs, steal data and conduct ‘altering operations’ against the Democratic Party leadership.”

On Thursday, new evidence emerged that indicated that internet service providers owned by Mr. Gubarev appear to have been used to do just that: A report by a former F.B.I. cyberexpert unsealed in a federal court in Miami found evidence that suggests Russian agents used networks operated by Mr. Gubarev to start their hacking operation during the 2016 presidential campaign.

[Read the report here.]

His networks also appear to have been regularly used by cybercriminals and Russian agents to conduct other attacks, such as an assault on Ukraine’s power grid in 2015, the report found.

Yet the report stops short of directly linking Mr. Gubarev or his executives to the hacking, as asserted in the dossier. As Anthony Ferrante, the report’s lead author and a former F.B.I. agent, noted in a deposition: “I have no evidence of them actually sitting behind a keyboard.”

Mr. Gubarev has insisted that neither he nor his businesses knowingly took part in the Russian hacking. He backed up his denials by filing a defamation lawsuit against BuzzFeed, the first news organization to publish the dossier, which became public in January 2017. The report unsealed Thursday was commissioned by BuzzFeed to fend off Mr. Gubarev’s suit, which was dismissed in December when the court found BuzzFeed’s decision to publish protected under the law.

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Evan Fray-Witzer, a lawyer for Mr. Gubarev, said that hackers using a client’s servers was hardly unique for a web-hosting company, or any tech company. Mr. Gubarev should not be held responsible for the misuse of his network by others that he neither approved nor knew about, Mr. Fray-Witzer said.

“You could say the same thing about Google’s infrastructure and Amazon’s infrastructure — and no one is accusing them of hacking anyone just because hackers used their infrastructure,” he said.

The report was released after months of legal wrangling by Mr. Gubarev’s lawyers, who strenuously fought to keep it under wraps, arguing that it was one-sided and would unfairly tar their client. The New York Times, acting independently of BuzzFeed and Mr. Gubarev, asked the court in October to unseal all of the evidence in the case.

For all of its details of Russia’s hacking, the report is unlikely to settle the questions that linger around the dossier more than two years after it became public. But for those who believe the president’s loyalties are with Moscow, the report’s suggestions of a link between Mr. Gubarev and Russian hacking is likely to spur new demands for renewed investigations, even as Robert S. Mueller III, the special counsel, appears to be wrapping up his investigation.

The dossier is made up of a series of reports compiled in the summer and fall of 2016 by Christopher Steele, a former British spy who runs a firm that conducts investigations for businesses and other clients. The work was done at the behest of President Trump’s political rivals, a fact that Mr. Trump and his allies have seized on in an effort to undermine the Russia inquiry by falsely claiming that it began because of the dossier.

Parts of the dossier have proved prescient. Its main assertion — that the Russian government was working to get Mr. Trump elected — was hardly an established fact when it was first laid out by Mr. Steele in June 2016. But it has since been backed up by the United States’ own intelligence agencies — and Mr. Mueller’s investigation. The dossier’s talk of Russian efforts to cultivate some people in Mr. Trump’s orbit was similarly unknown when first detailed in one of Mr. Steele’s reports, but it has proved broadly accurate as well.

Other parts of the dossier remain unsubstantiated, or nearly impossible to verify, such as its most salacious charge: that the Russians have a video of Mr. Trump cavorting with prostitutes in a Moscow hotel in 2013. At least one accusation — that Michael D. Cohen, Mr. Trump’s former personal lawyer and fixer, met in 2016 with Russian officials in Prague — now looks false after Mr. Cohen, who has turned sharply against Mr. Trump, denied last month during congressional testimony ever visiting Prague.

The report commissioned by BuzzFeed to investigate the dossier did not set out to prove any of those accusations. It was done by FTI Consulting, a Washington-based firm, and focused solely on the accusations against Mr. Gubarev. It relied largely on analyzing internet traffic and other clues, and on digging through public records to glean insight into Mr. Gubarev’s holding company, XBT, and its many affiliates, including Webzilla. Both XBT and Webzilla were named in the dossier as being used for the hacking.

While the report found no direct evidence of a direct link to the Russian hackers, it did conclude that Mr. Gubarev’s web-hosting services are rife with lawlessness. His clients routinely pirate copyrighted material and spread malware, the report found, and his executives appear unconcerned with stopping them or helping authorities track them down.

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Mr. Gubarev’s “companies have provided gateways to the internet for cybercriminals and Russian state-sponsored actors to launch and control large scale malware campaigns over the past decade,” the report concluded. “Gubarev and other XBT executives do not appear to actively prevent cybercriminals from using their infrastructure.”

The evidence cited by the report included the use of I.P. addresses — the numbered codes that differentiate individual internet connections — run by an XBT subsidiary, Root S.A., by Russian hackers from two groups tied to the country’s intelligence services, Fancy Bear and Cozy Bear. The investigators hired by BuzzFeed also found that at least one of the fake links used to trick John D. Podesta, the chairman of Hillary Clinton’s 2016 presidential campaign, into giving up his email password to hackers was traced back to an I.P. address run by Root S.A.

The report also detailed evidence that it said suggested Mr. Gubarev’s companies were used in other cybercrimes traced to Russian hackers. One was a sophisticated Russian cyberfraud operation known as the Methbot scheme. It used bots — computer programs that pretend to be people — to steal hundreds of millions of dollars.

During the three months the scheme was running in 2016, roughly three-quarters of the internet traffic flowing through two web-hosting companies owned by Mr. Gubarev — Servers.com and WZ Communications — was dedicated to the scheme, the report said.

Mr. Fray-Witzer, the lawyer, said Mr. Gubarev’s companies did not make a habit of prying into the web traffic of its clients, and could not have known what its servers were being used for. But, he added, Servers.com and WZ Communications shut off internet access for those behind the Methbot scheme as soon as they found out about it, and saved all of the hard drives for any investigators who wanted to examine them — none have.

Asked about the numerous lawsuits that have claimed that Mr. Gubarev’s companies were used to trade in copyrighted material, Mr. Fray-Witzer offered the same argument: Web-hosting companies are not typically held responsible for the traffic that flows through their servers, and Mr. Gubarev should not be held to a different standard.

In any case, Mr. Fray-Witzer said, the dossier accused Mr. Gubarev “directly of having been involved in the hacking of the D.N.C.,” not of running networks used by thieves and criminals.

“Because they couldn’t prove the allegations that they actually made about our client,” he continued, “they pivoted to say, ‘Well, your infrastructure was used from time to time to do bad things.’”
https://www.nytimes.com/2019/03/14/us/p ... ussia.html



Here's the link to the private intelligence report unsealed in the case of Aleksej Gubarev, XBT Holdings and Webzilla vs Buzzfeed and Ben Smith

https://int.nyt.com/data/documenthelper ... pdf#page=1
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Re: Trump Intelligence Allegations THE DOSSIER

Postby seemslikeadream » Thu Mar 28, 2019 2:57 pm

Dissecting the Trump-Russia Dossier

President Trump calls it the “Fake Dirty Dossier.” We have been through every line of former MI6 agent Christopher Steele’s allegations to assess their accuracy

Michael Weiss
25 July, 2018

“The Dossier,” as everyone calls it, is talked about either as the key to what really happened in the 2016 presidential election, as likely ordered by Vladimir Putin; or it’s an artful but largely invented tapestry of libels and innuendo meant to discredit Donald Trump’s presidency. Most likely there is something in it of both. And in the shadowland of espionage it is even possible that parts of it were planted by Russian operatives to distract and discredit investigators trying to get to the bottom of the Kremlin’s skullduggery.

Every few weeks passages from The Dossier resurface like Delphic prophecies, full of promise, menace, and ambiguity. Most recently, federal investigators indicted twelve officers of Russia’s military intelligence agency, the GRU, for hacking U.S. computers associated with the Democratic Party and Hillary Clinton’s campaign, stealing documents and disseminating them with the intent of trying to sway the election. We’ve also heard former FBI director James Comey say it is “possible” Donald Trump paid prostitutes to urinate on the bed the Obamas had slept in at the Moscow Ritz Carlton, although Comey said he really didn’t know. And we heard from McClatchy that Trump’s consigliere, Michael Cohen, really did travel to the Czech Republic in 2016, despite his continued denials — but we don’t know whom he met there.

Meanwhile, what purports to be the full text of The Dossier is rarely scrutinized in its entirety, and even more rarely understood for what it is: a collection of raw and sometimes unreliable notes about intelligence gathered from secondary and tertiary sources and thrown together into one folder over the course of six months in 2016. The most commonly available version, published by Buzzfeed in January 2017, does not even present the memos in the order in which they were written.


Paid for by Hillary Clinton’s presidential campaign and the Democratic Party, The Dossier was compiled by a highly respected former British intelligence officer, Christopher Steele, who was subcontracted by a more dubious American research firm, Fusion GPS. When it was published it was at first a source of prurient titillation, but more recently became the focus of ferocious contention and competing classified/unclassified memos in Congress. It is relevant to the work of federal investigators headed by former FBI Director Robert Mueller, who have sought to confirm or discredit every last detail, but they are pursuing many other avenues of inquiry as well.

Skeptics looking at Steele’s memos argue that they read a lot like a Russian disinformation campaign. Daniel Hoffman, a former CIA station chief in Moscow, has given three reasons to be wary of the contents of the dossier: that Steele himself never went to Russia to conduct his own investigation but relied on intermediaries of unknown trustworthiness; that Steele would have been under surveillance by the Russians, given his well-known tenure in MI6; and that the Kremlin may have known about his fact-finding efforts through the hacked DNC emails, given that the party was Steele’s paymaster.

Other respected intelligence analysts, such as Steven Hall, the CIA’s former station chief in Moscow and John Sipher, the former head of the Agency’s Russia program, are more inclined to believe in the veracity of Steele’s spadework. According to British journalist Luke Harding, Steele himself has told his friends that the dossier is “70 to 90 percent accurate.”

All of which suggests that some of the material is true, some not. But which?

Our goal is to provide an annotated version of The Dossier, verifying its allegations where we can and offering context that might make unverified allegations more — or less — plausible.

One of the difficulties in reading the original document — at least as published by Buzzfeed — is that once the memos are put in order, there are evident gaps in the sequence. For example, the first report is labeled as “080,” with no indication given as to where the original 79 antecedents might have gone. The second report is then labeled “086,” creating yet another mystery as to 81 through 85, and what content they might contain that would otherwise bolster or contextualize what came before or what follows. Moreover, Report “095” (undated by Steele) appears immediately before “094” (dated July 19, 2016) in the dossier, which makes no sense. As with Nixon’s White House tapes, the elisions in the text become more tantalizing than the text itself.

The result is an often disorganized mishmash of snapshots; a raw intelligence dump, using anonymous Russian sources, occurring in real-time as the international media began to uncover Russia’s attempted sabotage of U.S. democracy as well as Trump’s questionable personal and professional ties to friends of the Kremlin.

So, we’ve made our notes on the reordered dossier reports according to their file numbers and attempted to fit them into the relevant narrative of what was going on as they were written. What emerges is a complex but comprehensible story of gossip, intrigue, and spycraft.

Company Intelligence Report 2016/080

Dated 20 June 2016

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

Trump has been on the receiving end of Kremlin favors for “at least 5 years” and might be used as a battering ram to smash up Western alliances.
While Trump is said to have “declined” real estate deals as part of the quid pro quo in this arrangement, he has happily accepted Russian dirt on his enemies, including Hillary Clinton.
The Russian security services have also compromised Trump during his visit to Moscow in 2013, recording the notorious “golden showers” sex tape at the Ritz-Carlton Hotel.
The date of this document, June 20, 2016, is important. Christopher Steele had been hired by Fusion GPS only a few weeks earlier, in June. And six days before this memo is dated, the Washington Post headlined, “Russian government hackers penetrated DNC, stole opposition research on Trump.” The Russians had “gained access to the entire database of opposition research on GOP presidential candidate Donald Trump,” according to The Washington Post article by Ellen Nakashima. So it is possible Kremlin would have known who had been hired to gather such material, including Fusion GPS as an organization and possibly Christopher Steele as an individual, before Steele filed his first memo. If that were the case, then it’s likely that Russian operatives would have toyed with Steele — and Trump. “[T]hey feed him some stuff that’s true, and some stuff that isn’t true, and some stuff that is demonstrably wrong,” as Ben Macintyre, a historian of British espionage described what would have been a classic information operation. “Which means that Trump can then stand up and deny it, while knowing that the essence of it is true. And then he has a stone in his shoe for the rest of his administration.”

Nearly a week after the Post story, Steele filed what appears to be a relatively hasty collection of gossip with shocking headlines but nothing of substance that is as important as the earlier very specific newspaper article, to which he makes no reference. It is as if Steele called up a couple of his usual contacts in Russia and asked what they’d heard or might surmise. But there is one very racy item that, later, would dominate public discussion of the document: the “golden showers” tape.

Meanwhile, U.S. government reaction to the The Washington Post story, as noted by Jane Mayer in The New Yorker, was “remarkably blasé. … When the infiltration of the DNC 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 memo cites a “senior Russian Foreign Ministry official” and a “former top level Russian intelligence officer” as sources for the allegation that the Russians had been cultivating Trump for about five years. But as a general principle, any intelligence analyst might surmise that Trump was under observation, and possibly a target for “cultivation.”

We know that dating back well before the demise of the Soviet Union in the early 1990s, Soviet intelligence had been spying on Trump using the security service of Czechoslovakia as well as the Soviet KGB. The initial reason: Trump had married a Czech citizen, Ivana Zelnickova, in 1977.

Trump’s first trip to Moscow came a decade later, in 1987, a year after he met the Soviet Ambassador to the United Nations, Yury Dubinin, who had only just then touched down in New York to assume his new post. (It was short-lived; just weeks later, Dubinin was named Soviet ambassador to the U.S. and duly moved to Washington, D.C.) According to Dubinin’s daughter, who was already part of the Soviet U.N. delegation and who picked her father up at the airport and gave him a driven tour of a city he had never before visited, Dubinin instantly charmed Trump at Trump Tower by remarking that the building was the “first thing” he saw upon his arrival. Natalia Dubinina recalled to the newspaper Komsomolskaya Pravda, “Trump melted at once. He is an emotional person, somewhat impulsive. He needs recognition. And, of course, when he gets it he likes it. My father’s visit worked on him like honey to a bee.” As Luke Harding observes in Collusion: Secret Meetings, Dirty Money, and how Russia Helped Donald Trump Win, Dubinin’s other daughter, Irina, later claimed that her father “was on a mission as ambassador. This was, she said, to make contact with America’s business elite.”

It is highly unlikely that as the KGB gave way to the post-Soviet FSB and SVR — the domestic and foreign arms of Russian intelligence, respectively — Moscow simply abandoned its file on the Trump family.

According to Steele’s timeline, “cultivating and supporting” began around 2011, a year before Barack Obama’s re-election as president and a time when Trump was not only promoting the “birther” conspiracy theory but actively seeking to run for Obama’s office himself.

The U.S. grand jury indictment of 13 Russians connected to the Internet Research Agency, or “Troll Factory,” which was made public by Special Counsel Robert Mueller in February 2018, substantiates the argument that the Russian campaign to undermine the U.S. elections dated back at least to early 2014, when two Troll Factory agents were sent on secret missions to the United States. It is not clear from the indictment that the objective at that point was to try to elect Donald Trump, although according to the FBI, CIA and NSA that became its purpose later on.

Now we come to the unforgettably salacious part of the memo: the question of Trump watching prostitutes urinate on the bed at the Ritz-Carlton Hotel where President Barack Obama and First Lady Michelle Obama had slept.

Trump was indeed in Moscow in November 2013 to attend the Miss Universe pageant that he had promoted, hoping also to meet Vladimir Putin. Also, according to journalists David Corn and Michael Isikoff in their new book, Russian Roulette: The Inside Story of Putin’s War on America and the Election of Donald Trump, during the Miss USA Contest, held in Las Vegas months earlier — in June of that year — Trump and the Russian-Azeri pop singer Emin Agalarov had gone to The Act, a night club notorious for its on-stage simulations of bestiality, sadomasochism and other less-than-vanilla sex acts, one of which involved golden showers. The Act was deemed to have broken its lease provisions due to the raunchy nature of these performances; a Nevada judge ordered a stop to them and the eventual closure of the club.” And while it is unknown if Trump was in attendance for a urination pantomime, he is clearly not above putting himself in potentially prurient or kinky circumstances, whatever the legitimacy of his self-professed “germophobia.”

Later, during the campaign and his presidency, the world would learn that Trump appears to be quite literally shameless about his sexual behavior, and whenever called out about specific incidents follows a pattern that can be roughly described as “it wasn’t me” and then, “if it was, so what?” This was true with the “Access Hollywood” tape that surfaced in October 2016, on which he is recorded talking about grabbing women by the “pussy” and getting away with it because he’s famous, and it appears to be the case with the more recent allegations by porn star Stormy Daniels alleging that she and he had unprotected sex in 2006, soon after his wife Melania gave birth to their son Barron.

So if the Russians did think that cavorting with prostitutes would compromise Trump and open him to blackmail, they might well have been disappointed. But in the summer of 2016, for those few who knew about it, the allegation about the so-called “pee pee tape” must have seemed potentially damning and dangerous. Certainly Steele seems to have thought so.

The Russian opposition-leaning news site The Insider published an article January 17, 2017 — the same day Buzzfeed published The Dossier — titled, “The FSB’s Movie Studio: How Intelligence Services Film Compromising Video in Hotels.” It cites a former FSB “hotel manager” who described how this surveillance system works normally in hotels for foreigners. He said that while the foyer and corridors are under FSB surveillance cameras, surveillance within a room by the FSB of a visiting foreign head of state would run the risk of crossing wires, as it were, with the Federal Protection Service (FSO), which guards the Kremlin grounds and top Russian leaders — and the foreigners who meet with them.

“Putting a hidden video system in the presidential suite is not necessary,” The Insider cites the FSB “hotel manager” saying. “Especially as it is easily detected by specialists from the presidential security and could blow up into a big scandal. Most likely, the ‘hidden’ filming was a one-time matter, and the miniature video camera could have been inserted into a pen, a lighter, a watch, a teacup, a vase or in the worst case the bra of a prostitute,” he said. If this account is true, the Trump tape would be in the possession of the FSO, not the FSB. This may be relevant to another key claim made by The Dossier: that the election interference operation was orchestrated and overseen by Putin’s Presidential Administration, not the Russian security services. The FSO is, after all, Putin’s “praetorian guard.”

Steele writes that “a dossier of compromising material on Hillary Clinton” had been collated by the Russian intelligence services over many years and consisted mainly of “bugged conversations” Clinton had on visits to Russia and intercepted phone calls, “rather than any embarrassing conduct.” Steele claims his sources told him the dossier on Clinton was overseen and controlled exclusively by Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov, “directly on Putin’s orders.” Steele says those files had not yet been distributed abroad and he was unsure what Russian intentions were regarding them.

We have no open source evidence that anything Russian intelligence has obtained from surveillance of Hillary Clinton has been used publicly, nor any idea of its content, although the Steele source’s admission that it does not contain any “unorthodox or embarrassing” behavior suggests that Moscow doesn’t have much.

It would be natural for Russia’s Presidential Administration to have a file on an American secretary of state and/or presidential candidate, as the White House would have on the Russian equivalents.

The Internet Research Agency indictments issued by Special Counsel Robert Mueller point to a private company with Clinton high on its list of targets at least as early as 2016.

Was Dmitry Peskov, the chief spokesman for the president, handling the U.S. election dossier? Peskov is a very visible figure, the go-to man for any journalist seeking a comment or quote from the president’s office.

In one memorable incident, journalists scrambled to get a glimpse of his six-figure timepiece — a Richard Mille RM 52-01, of which only 30 were ever produced — after opposition leader Alexei Navalny published an exposé of Peskov’s alleged illicit wealth.

While it may seem counterintuitive to hand responsibility for Russia’s most daring foreign intelligence operation since the end of the Cold War to a man whose job is public relations and communications, the fact that Peskov speaks good English might help explain his alleged centrality.

Peskov’s usual role is as much to keep people away from Putin as it is to grant access to him. He thus acts as a referee among rival factions in the Kremlin, as also implied by the Steele dossier. Thus, for such a sensitive task as interfering in a U.S. election, Putin may have felt more comfortable putting his factotum in charge rather than a less trustworthy actor from the rival intelligence services.

Company Intelligence Report 2016/086

Dated 26 July 2015

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

Russia has an “extensive” and fairly sophisticated state-sponsored hacking capability, which have relative success in targeting some foreign governments, corporations and banks.
Hackers are often coerced or blackmailed into doing the bidding of the security services, including Russians living outside of the Russian Federation in neighboring countries, but also in the United States.
The date of this dispatch is obviously wrong, and the day as well as the year appear to be incorrect. If the memo number “086” at the top is right, it should come before the memo “094,” which is dated July 19, 2016.

In this period between the previous memo on June 20 and the following one on July 19, there was a lot going on that is relevant to the content of 086, but not addressed.

On June 23, reportedly to the consternation of Steele, and many others, the United Kingdom voted to leave the European Union — a harbinger of the kind of populist shocks to Western unity that the Russians actively supported. Prior to Steele’s focus on Trump, as reported in The New Yorker, he worked on research under the heading “Project Charlemagne,” looking at Russian interference in the politics of France, Italy, Germany — and the U.K.

On July 14, at the Republican National Convention, the Trump campaign deleted a plank in the party platform that advocated providing lethal weapons to Ukraine in its fight against pro-Russian separatists.

But what Steele submits is a basic overview of Russian government cyber activities. It is conceivable most of the text in this “synopsis” was cut and pasted from some earlier research, perhaps from Project Charlemagne, which would explain the date being a year off.

Russia’s cyber-espionage capability was making a lot of headlines in the summer of 2016, and Steele, to some extent, appears to be re-upping earlier research as it might pertain to the U.S. presidential race.

We have since learned from the Dutch press that in November 2014 “Cozy Bear,” a code-name for state-sponsored Russian hackers, penetrated the computers of the DNC, and was caught doing so by the AIVD, the Dutch security service, which duly warned its American counterparts. Dutch intelligence had earlier warned the FBI about Cozy Bear’s infiltration of the State Department and White House, including President Obama’s email correspondence. The Dutch reportedly managed to hack one of the security cameras near the Russian operation and were able to identify specific personnel associated with the Russian foreign intelligence service, the SVR.

This would have been parallel to, and possibly independent of, the Internet Research Agency operations detailed in the February 2018 indictment presented by Special Counsel Mueller. The indictment makes no mention of the Dutch allegations.

It also has been reported in the New York Times that Trump foreign policy advisor George Papadopoulos, after several drinks, told an Australian diplomat in London in May 2016 that the Russians had gathered political dirt on Clinton, and by July — as the scandal of alleged Russian interference began to grow — the Australians passed on that information to U.S. officials.

Steele does not seem to have been aware of any of this. At least, he makes no allusion to it. Neither does he seem to have knowledge of any role played by the GRU, Russia’s military intelligence agency, twelve officers of which have just been indicted by Mueller for hacking “into the computers of U.S. persons and entities involved in the 2016 U.S. presidential election, steal documents from those computers, and stage releases of the stolen documents to interfere with the 2016 U.S. presidential election.” The indictment specifically names two units of the agency — 26165 and 74455 — as having targeted various Clinton campaign email accounts and the computer networks belonging to the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee (DCCC) and the Democratic National Committee (DNC).

The GRU, according to Mueller, created online personae and accounts – Guccifer 2.0 and DC Leaks – as platforms to disseminate the stolen digital information. In August 2016, the indictment specifies, the GRU officers posing as Guccifer 2.0 sent such information to a “candidate for the U.S. Congress” as well as a “person who was in regular contact” with senior members of the Trump campaign. The latter is onetime Trump campaign adviser Roger Stone, based on what Mueller quotes the aforementioned person saying to Guccifer 2.0 in the indictment being exactly what Stone himself told the persona, as evidenced by Stone’s publication of their direct messages on Twitter.

The GRU’s cyber units have also been implicated in sabotage operations in Ukraine and in the downing of Malaysia Airlines Flight 17 with a Russian surface-to-air missile 2014, an act which killed 283 passengers and 15 crew members.

U.S. Treasury sanctions announced on March 15, 2018 against people connected to the Internet Research Agency “Troll Factory” also included the name of several officers in the GRU, including the chief and deputy of chief of the organization.

Steele suggests that Russian hackers did not have huge successes with Western NATO countries or rarely breached central command, but in fact they have attacked the computer networks of multiple smaller countries, not just because they are reluctant neighbors but because they are allied with the U.S.

The use of Russians and citizens of former Soviet Union countries to facilitate hacking operations is well established.

One intriguing example that made tabloid headlines is a beguiling young Uzbekistan native, Olga Komova, who was arrested in Thailand, where she worked (officially) as a hotel receptionist and guest liaison at the Emerald Cove Hotel. In fact, according to The Daily Beast, Komova was a helpmate for a Russian-based gang of hackers who had stolen and laundered $40 million from U.S. and U.K. banks. According to Britain’s Daily Telegraph, citing officials familiar with the case, “More than 50 people from Britain, the U.S., Australia, Italy, Germany and Japan had fallen prey to the hacking network which sent spam emails containing ‘malware’ (hostile computer software including viruses) in order to ascertain the usernames and passwords of their victims’ online bank accounts and siphon off cash.”

In 2014, the U.S. charged two Russian FSB operatives and two Russian hackers with compromising 500 million Yahoo email accounts. That operation marked the first instance members of Russia’s domestic intelligence service were added to the FBI’s Most Wanted List for cyber-crimes.

In October 2017, the New York Times reported that Israeli spies had uncovered a vast plot by “Russian government hackers” to search for codenames of U.S. intelligence programs. Their point of entry? Kaspersky Labs, a Moscow-based antivirus company whose software is used globally by hundreds of millions of people and by several U.S. government agencies — at least until the Israelis informed their American counterparts as to the software’s more sinister applications.

The Russians, the Times noted, are “known to have stolen classified documents from a National Security Agency employee who had improperly stored them on his home computer, on which Kaspersky’s antivirus software was installed.”

Steele does not name Kaspersky, and technically it is a private company, not a state owned enterprise (SOE), which is the specific reference he made.

While it is theoretically possible that Kaspersky Labs had no knowledge of its role in targeting classified information, senior American intelligence officials say they don’t buy that interpretation. Former CIA Moscow Station Chief Steven Hall told the Times, “I had the gravest concerns about Kaspersky, and anyone who worked on Russia or in counterintelligence shared those concerns.”

When Russian FSB hackers were arrested by their own agency in December 2016, Kaspersky corporate press releases reported unabashedly that the firm had indeed “cooperated with the FSB on cybercrime cases since 2013.” This routine statement was dutifully copied verbatim by both state and private pro-Kremlin media in Russia and remains accessible online from Kaspersky’s own website.

Not only was the company’s cofounder, Eugene Kaspersky, trained at a KGB cryptography school, but his firm has been shown, in court documents, to have allowed the FSB unusual access to its platform.

In December 2017, The Washington Post reported that Konstantin Kozlovskiy, a suspected Russian cyber-criminal involved in several high-profile digital capers targeting Russian banks, had his personal computer penetrated by a technician at Kaspersky who was given Kozlovskiy’s password by an FSB agent.

According to Andrei Soldatov, the Russian journalist who closely tracks the nation’s security services, Kaspersky Labs “actively and secretly participated in an ongoing FSB operation, which makes them look like assets rather than experts.”

Kaspersky denied that the now-former head of his investigation unit, Ruslan Stoyanov — who came from the same Department K of the Russian Interior Ministry to which Steele was likely referring to when he confused it with Directorate K of the FSB — was arrested on December 4, 2016 for his relationship to the antivirus firm. Kaspersky also said that the charges predated Stoyanov’s employment at the company and, in any event, Stoyanov had worked on Russian, not American projects.

Yet one of these Russians projects may have had direct bearing on a bold American one.

In August 2016, Stoyanov was credited with taking down Lurk, described by Internet business portal The Register as “history’s most advanced financially-driven malware” and “the progeny of some 50 jailed hackers known as the Lurk group.” Months later, in December 2017, a hacker belonging to the Lurk cybercrime gang admitted the creation of the WannaCry ransomware and the DNC hack at the request of Russian intelligence agencies.

Regardless of the extent of his international involvement, Stoyanov was the point-man at the firm with the FSB, in which capacity he worked closely with Colonel Sergei Mikhailov, the deputy head of the FSB’s Information Security Center. On December 5, 2016, a day after Stoyanov’s arrest, Mikhailov and his underling Major Dmitry Dokuchaev, were also arrested by the FSB on charges of “treason.” (The FBI would later identify Dokuchaev as having been involved in the 2014 Yahoo email hack.)

Stoyanov, Mikhailov and Dokuchaev were all thrown into Moscow’s Lefortovo prison, but, as Soldatov and Borogan write in The Red Web, Stoyanov managed to smuggle out a letter. It read: “Why me?… [I am] one of the people who fought cybercrime for the last 17 years…but the paradigm in cybercrime has changed. Now cybercrime is closely connected with geopolitics. That’s why [cybercriminals] could unleash the full power of the government against an expert like me. And that’s why I was prosecuted.”

Could Stoyanov and his FSB liaisons have been arrested because of a perception in the Kremlin that they had botched the hacking of American institutions, or that they had to be purged as people who simply knew too much of how the Trump operation was perpetrated and were thus counterintelligence liabilities? Or perhaps because they were suspected of being sources for Steele’s sources? Any of these theories is plausible.

Company Intelligence Report 2016/094

19 July 2016

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

Steele names Carter Page as one of the Trump campaign officials allegedly complicit in the Russia operation, and the Kremlin officials who liaised with him in Moscow: Rosneft CEO Igor Sechin and senior Kremlin Internal Affairs official Igor Diveykin.
The topic of their conversation was the relaxation of U.S. sanctions on Russia in exchange for greater U.S.-Russia energy cooperation.
This is the first of the known Steele memos that has highly specific bearing on the current investigations being conducted by congressional committees and Special Counsel Robert Mueller into complicity between the Trump campaign and Russia.

It was also the centerpiece of the Republican Party efforts to discredit that investigation by claiming, in a memo prepared at the behest of House Intelligence Committee Chairman Devin Nunes, and declassified by President Trump, that the warrants from the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court to monitor former Trump campaign advisor Carter Page were first obtained in October 2016 and subsequently renewed on the basis of the Steele Dossier.

That does not appear to be the case. The activities of George Papadopoulos and the reported results of Dutch surveillance of the Russian hackers were known to the FBI well before this Steele memo was written. The Nunes memo notes that “the Papadopoulos information triggered the opening of an FBI counterintelligence investigation in late July 2016.” By the time the warrant for surveilling Page was first obtained in October 2016 much more evidence had accumulated.

Furthermore, the FBI’s release on July 21, 2018 of more than 400 pages of documents in response to lawsuits by media organizations indicate that the Bureau believed Page was “an agent of a foreign power,” had “established relationships with Russian Government officials, including Russian intelligence officers” and that the “Russian Government’s efforts [were] being coordinated with Page and perhaps other individuals associated with” the Trump campaign. The Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court application, which was heavily redacted, clearly cites the information compiled on Page in The Dossier, although only refers to Steele as a compensated “Source #1,” deemed “reliable” owing to his prior work with the FBI. (The warrant application also describes Source #1’s role as a subcontractor for an unnamed American looking into an unnamed political candidate’s ties to Russia.)

But it is significant, certainly, that in “early July” of 2016, which is to say before this memo was filed to Fusion GPS, Steele was so concerned by the national security implications of what he had learned that “on his own initiative — without the permission of the U.S. company that hired him — [Steele] sent a report he had written for that firm to a contact at the FBI,” according to an October 2016 interview with an at-the-time unnamed Steele published by David Corn in Mother Jones.

The Nunes memo notes in boldface type that Steele “was desperate that Donald Trump not get elected and was passionate about him not being president.” The implication is that this was political bias rather than concern based on the evidence he had gathered that Trump was being instrumentalized and possibly blackmailed by a hostile foreign power.

The critical allegation in Steele’s COMPANY INTELLIGENCE REPORT 2016/094 is that Carter Page discussed a quid pro quo with senior Russian energy officials that would have traded “future bilateral energy cooperation” for “an associated move” to lift Ukraine-related western sanctions. In a separate meeting, another Russian official is said to have kompromat about Hillary Clinton, and also, darkly, kompromat about Trump that the candidate should “bear in mind in his dealings” with the Russians.

So, did Page meet with Igor Sechin? Page has said he didn’t.

From Sechin’s public schedule of appearances, we can establish that he met with the Venezuelan chargé d’affaires at the Venezuelan Embassy in Moscow on July 5, 2016, Venezuelan Independence Day. Sechin subsequently signed an oil deal in Caracas on July 29. We don’t know when he left for Venezuela.

The putative meeting between Sechin and Page could easily have taken place before Sechin traveled to Caracas, when Page was on a five-day trip to Moscow on or around July 6, 2016, but there is no evidence of it.

Company Intelligence Report 2016/095

Undated

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

This memo states that, according to one of Steele’s sources, an “ethnic Russian close associate” of the candidate, that there was active cooperation between the campaign and the Russian government to defeat Hillary Clinton, whom Vladimir Putin “hated and feared.”
The Russians hacked the DNC email accounts and shared the contents with Wikileaks, with the “full knowledge and support” of Trump and senior members of his campaign.
In return, the GOP promised to water down its party platform on Ukraine and to highlight the inequities in the NATO alliance.
A clever scheme was inaugurated whereby Kremlin agents in the U.S. would be compensated through the Russian emigre pension scheme.
The allegations in this memo are damning, if true, and are no doubt subjects of interest to the Mueller and congressional investigations. But, again, Steele seems to be trying to keep up with breaking news events.

Although there is no date on this memo, it is apparent from the report number that it was written in late July 2016. On the 22nd of that month, in the lead-up to the Democratic Convention, Wikileaks started releasing damaging emails that had been received from the Russians. This came at a time when Republicans were hammering on the issue of Clinton’s use of a private email server while she was secretary of state, and the disappearance of thousands of emails requested by congressional investigators. A few days after the Wikileaks releases began, Trump half-joked in a speech, “By the way, if they [Russians] hacked, they probably have her 33,000 emails. I hope they do.”

We now know that WikiLeaks sent Donald Trump, Jr. direct messages on Twitter pointing to hacked and disseminated DNC email correspondence. However, those texts only show WikiLeaks alerting Trump Jr. to what was already in the public domain and showing him where to find it, with encouragement that he and his father make the most of it during the election.

Thus even now, while these certainly are an “indication of extensive conspiracy,” as Steele put it, there is no solid proof on the public record.

If there ever was one possible indirect line of communication between Manafort and Putin, then it may have been through Russian oligarch and former Manafort business partner Oleg Deripaska. Russian opposition leader Alexei Navalny produced an investigative video in February 2018 that outlined the connection. We know that according to emails obtained by The Washington Post, Manafort offered to brief Deripaska on the U.S. presidential campaign just weeks before Trump accepted the Republican nomination as a possible way for Manafort to resolve a business debt to Deripaska. Manafort has always denied he had ties to Putin himself.

Based on Instagram posts put up by Nastya Rybka, the pseudonym of a self-styled seductress of billionaires who was deployed with a group of escorts to “attack” Navalny’s headquarters, Navalny and his team were able to establish a connection between Deripaska and Russian Deputy Prime Minister Sergei Prikhodko. Rybka was with Deripaska and Prikhodko on Deripaska’s yacht off the coast of Norway in early August 2016 and recorded some of their conversations. It seems they were discussing business and Russia-U.S. relations as they ridiculed Victoria Nuland, former Assistant Secretary of State for European and Eurasian Affairs.

Prikhodko is described as the éminence grise of the government’s foreign operations and is a longtime government official. He served in the administrations of Boris Yeltsin, Vladimir Putin, Dmitry Medvedev, and now Putin again.

So might he have been Deripaska’s Kremlin liaison for conveying information to and from Manafort and, by extension, the Trump campaign?

Navalny finds this theory much more persuasive than the assumption that Deripaska was Putin’s direct line to Trump. Rybka (Anastasia Vashukevich) and her business partner subsequently traveled to Thailand, where they were arrested in February 2018 on charges of sexual solicitation and are currently in prison awaiting trial. In a video posted on Instagram from a police car, Rybka said she had information about Russia’s interference in the U.S. elections and appealed for political asylum in America.

Source E also told Steele that Russia was indeed behind the hack of the DNC emails (as The Washington Post had reported in June) and passed the contents onto Wikileaks, a dissemination vehicle used for the purpose of “plausible deniability.” More important, Source E alleges that Trump and senior members of his campaign had “full knowledge” and gave “support” to this operation. To repay the Russians, Trump agreed to “sideline” Russia’s war against Ukraine as a campaign issue and instead focus on “US/NATO defence commitments in the Baltics and Eastern Europe.”

Then-CIA Director Mike Pompeo said in April 2017 that it was “time to call out WikiLeaks for what it really is: a non-state hostile intelligence service often abetted by state actors like Russia.” The CIA also says Russia passed the leaked files to WikiLeaks through a “circuitous route from the GRU,” a route which was seemingly reconstructed by federal investigators in the indictment of those twelve GRU officers. Mueller mentions that in June 2016 the officers, using their Guccifer 2.0 persona, released stolen Democratic correspondence “through a website maintained by an organization (“Organization 1”), that had previously posted documents stolen from U.S. persons, entities, and the U.S. government.” That organization is almost certainly WikiLeaks.

WikiLeaks’ broader connection to Russia is well-known.

Its founder Julian Assange had a brief talk show hosted on the Russian state propaganda channel RT, and Assange addressed a 10-year anniversary gala for the channel via satellite from the Ecuadorian embassy in London, where he has holed up for over five years to escape a sex crimes investigation in Sweden, and U.K. charges related to his evasion of arrest. As Russian journalists Andrei Soldatov and Irina Borogan report in their book The Red Web: The Struggle Between Russia’s Digital Dictator’s and the Online Revolutionaries, in the fall of 2016, WikiLeaks moved its servers to Moscow.

WikiLeaks also has withheld information embarrassing to Russian interests, such as the confirmation of a €2 billion transfer from the Syrian Central Bank to Russia’s state-owned VTB Bank. This disclosure was originally contained in the 2012 WikiLeaks cache known as “The Syria Files” and only surfaced as part of a court proceeding.

Finally, for an organization purportedly devoted to exposing state secrets, WikiLeaks’ reaction to the offshore expose known as the “Panama Papers” — one of the more explosive findings of which showed that one of Putin’s closest friends, the cellist Sergei Roldugin, was worth billions of dollars — was less than a paean to transparency. “#PanamaPapers Putin attack was produced by OCCRP which targets Russia & former USSR and was funded by USAID & Soros” and “US govt funded #PanamaPapers attack story on Putin via USAID. Some good journalists but no model for integrity” were its tweeted responses.

As Soldatov and Borogan write in The Red Web:, Putin had scornfully dismissed this Pulitzer Prize-winning investigation as a “manufactured…information product” and deferred to WikiLeaks insinuation that “that officials and state agencies in the United States are behind all this!”

Paul Manafort, then the Trump campaign chairman, was widely suspected of having overseen the Republican National Convention’s platform change with respect to Ukraine by scrapping the GOP policy advocating the provision of “lethal defensive weapons” to Kiev. Moreover, the Mueller indictment against Manafort alleges that he acted as an “unregistered agent” of former Ukrainian president (and Putin ally) Viktor Yanukovych, Yanukovych’s Party of Regions, and the Ukrainian government generally over the course of a decade between 2006 and 2016. Manafort is also accused of laundering tens of millions of dollars — for which he did not pay U.S. taxes — through a series of U.S. and foreign corporations and bank accounts.

According to Diana Denman, a Republican delegate in favor of America’s arming Ukraine, Trump national security campaign aide J.D. Gordon told her at the convention that Trump personally had ordered the removal of the policy from the party platform. Gordon then denied this direct intervention by the candidate and said it was Gordon’s “job” to iron out the GOP platform, but in the process he also revealed the campaign’s rationale for doing so: “Trump said on the campaign trail that he didn’t want World War III over Ukraine. And he wanted better relations with Russia. It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to figure out that arming Ukraine isn’t consistent with those two positions.” (On March 1, 2018, the Trump administration approved the $47 million sale of Javelin antitank missiles to Ukraine.)

As for emphasizing defense commitments in the Baltics and Eastern Europe, a mainstay of Trump’s foreign policy rhetoric as candidate was that NATO was “obsolete,” that its member-states were not paying their fair share and were guilty of “ripping off” the U.S. All very amenable to Putin, who seeks as a matter of geopolitical ambition to weaken and destroy NATO as an institution. However, Trump’s NATO bugbear goes back nearly two decades — well before even Steele credits his cultivation by the Russians — to at least 2000 when he published a (ghostwritten) book making many of these same criticisms. That fact would deflect from Steele’s allegation that Trump’s undermining of the alliance by referring to America’s outsize cost for its upkeep was somehow recompense for Russia’s help in the election.

Company Intelligence Report 2016/097

30 July 2016

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

The Kremlin worries that its operation has worked only too well and that the backlash against the DNC hacking is drawing too much attention to Russia.
The Republican candidate has been in “regular exchange with [the] Kremlin” for eight years.
July was a seismic month in the U.S. presidential campaign, and for Steele personally, making this brief up-sum of a memo rather anticlimactic. Early in the month, as noted above, Steele had gone to the FBI with his findings about the Trump team’s ties to Russia.

Then, as noted, on July 22, three days before the Democratic National Convention in Philadelphia, WikiLeaks began releasing the first tranche of some 20,000 hacked emails belonging to the DNC. And while the Kremlin may have experienced, as per Steele, “extreme” nervousness about its interference in the U.S. election, it’s by no means certain that Donald Trump approached the attendant media fallout with the same level of earnestness. “The new joke in town,” he tweeted on July 25, “is that Russia leaked the disastrous DNC e-mails, which should never have been written (stupid), because Putin likes me.”

Two days later, July 27, at a press conference, kidding on the level, Trump suggested Russia carry on, this time targeting the missing 30,000 emails from Hillary Clinton’s personal email server: “Russia, if you’re listening, I hope you’re able to find the 30,000 emails that are missing. I think you will probably be rewarded mightily by our press.” On the same day, at a rally in Scranton, Pennsylvania, Trump extended the hand of friendship to Putin yet again, telling an audience, “Wouldn’t it be a great thing if we could get along with Russia? Wouldn’t that be a good thing? That would be a good thing.”

July 27, 2016 was also notable for another reason, newly come to light thanks to the Mueller investigation. According to the latest indictment, this was the very same day that GRU officers first attempted to “spearphish” email accounts at a domain hosted by a third-party provider and used by Clinton’s personal office. At or around the same time, they also targeted sixty-seven email addresses at the domain for the Clinton Campaign.”

In “late July,” according to the New York Times, the FBI first started its investigation into possible collusion between the Trump campaign and the Russian government: this apparently after receiving intelligence from the British, Dutch and Australians that there was real fire behind the smoke.

A “Russian emigre” close to the Trump team, cited in this memo, could again be Sergei Millian, variously known as Source D or Source E throughout the dossier (as per The Washington Post) or perhaps Felix Sater, a sometime business partner of the Trump Organization — not to mention an ex-con and Russian-mafia-linked FBI informant — who claims to have visited Trump Tower in July 2016.

Note that this “emigre associate” of Trump says that intelligence has been shared between Trump’s organization and the Kremlin for “at least 8 years.” In Memo 080, however, two of Steele’s other sources — “a senior Russian Foreign Ministry figure and a former top level Russian intelligence officer still active inside the Kremlin”— mark the start of the cultivation and support of Trump at “5 years” before 2016, well after the Soviet KGB will have opened an intelligence file on Trump based on his activities in Moscow.

While the time discrepancy may seem negligible, an eight-year history of collusion would mean that Trump was “activated” in 2008, the year Barack Obama became the Democratic nominee and then president, whereas a five-year history would date the activation at around the time of Obama’s re-election campaign, in 2011.

Trump’s pathological obsession with Obama appears to have galvanized his own run for the White House after decades of flirting with such a foray into national politics. If the Steele emigre source in this memo is correct, then the Russians might have used Trump’s fixation on a rising political star to encourage him to become an agent with the promise that they would then help him replace the man he so hated and about whom he’d invented dark conspiracy theories. If the more authoritative Russian government and intelligence sources of Memo 080 have it right, then the prospect of seeing an incumbent Obama given another four years in office might have been just the psychological nudge Trump needed.

Company Intelligence Report 2016/100

5 August 2016

GROWING BACKLASH IN KREMLIN TO DNC HACKING AND TRUMP SUPPORT OPERATIONS

Steele examines the Kreminology of the operation, reflecting on those who fear the whole thing may have backfired.
Sergei Ivanov, the head of the Presidential Administration, thinks this interference campaign was a colossal mistake and evidently decides to stop it in its tracks.
The mastermind of the entire operation, Putin’s spokesman Dmitry Peskov, is worried that he’ll be blamed for everything, including any U.S. retaliation.
In late July or early August, the FBI warned the Trump and Clinton campaigns of the Kremlin’s efforts to interfere in the U.S. election, by which point, as NBC News reported, “at least seven Trump campaign officials had been in contact with Russians or people linked to Russia.” Trump had also by now denied having had anything to do with the GOP platform change on Ukraine, which we have already discussed in a previous memo.

Given that America’s foremost counterintelligence arm was investigating Russia’s intervention and briefing both main party candidates as to its seriousness, there is every reason to expect that Peskov, assuming he was in charge of the operation, would fear the blowback from its exposure in the U.S. government and media. Espionage and influence campaigns are not meant to be found out, after all, and the underlying premise of this memo — that Trump’s unmasking as a Manchurian Candidate would lead to U.S. retaliation against Russia — is logical so far as it goes.

So is Ivanov’s alleged unease over Peskov’s handling of this sensitive mission. Ivanov had enjoyed somewhat more amenable relations with the Americans. As Russia’s defense minister during 9/11, he had worked with Condoleezza Rice, a trained Sovietologist, during the U.S. invasion of Afghanistan to allow U.S. supply routes through Russian overland space to prevent, at least in his telling of it, the Taliban’s request for safe passage into post-Soviet Central Asian republics, where Russia still maintained sizable military and intelligence footprints.

Even after he was dismissed from the Presidential Administration in August 2016, and made special representative on environment, Ivanov wasn’t quite purged from the Russian defense sector: he still retained his seat as a permanent member of Putin’s National Security Council. Ivanov subsequently gave an interview to the Financial Times in October 2016 in which he denied Russia’s support for Trump or its interference in the U.S. election and said Russia is ready for friendly relations.

If there were faction fights in the Kremlin — with one group saying that the interference in the U.S. elections should be continued even more aggressively, and another faction including Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov feeling it had “gone too far”— then why would Ivanov, who was dismissed in August, be selected for the sensitive mission of giving an interview to FT in October just a couple of weeks before the American elections, claiming Russia in fact didn’t support Trump, and wanted to improve relations with the U.S.? Why would he be trusted to relay such a message?

There is a strange discrepancy in Steele’s Kremlinology. Ivanov is far more powerful than Peskov, and it seems odd that the latter — whose official job is spin doctoring — would have been put in charge of so sensitive an operation. In effect, this would be like John Kelly taking orders from Sarah Huckabee Sanders.

Company Intelligence Report 2016/101

10 August 2016

RUSSIA/US PRESIDENTIAL ELECTION: SENIOR KREMLIN FIGURE OUTLINES EVOLVING RUSSIAN TACTICS IN PRO-TRUMP, ANTI-CLINTON OPERATION 2016/101

Steele suggests a tamping-down of the operation by the Kremlin, which has decided against leaking any more stolen communications which could impact the election and focusing instead on a more subtle influence campaign.
The goal now was to push a younger voting demographic toward Trump, and also underwrite third party (or fringe) political actors’ trips to Moscow.
These included Green Party candidate Jill Stein and cult leader Lyndon LaRouche and now-disgraced former national security adviser Michael Flynn.
Memos 101 and 102 are both dated August 10, 2016 and should be viewed as a pair, the first about the attitudes inside Russia, the second about related skullduggery in the U.S. election campaign.

Specifically, according to Steele, Sergei Ivanov determined that rather than leak new material (presumably more hacked emails) designed to help Trump, the operation would now turn toward spreading “rumors and misinformation about the content of what already had been leaked” and to inventing false content to toss into the mix.

Guccifer 2.0, identified by the latest Mueller indictment as an online persona invented by GRU officers, began releasing hacked emails belonging to the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee (DCCC) on August 12, 2016, two days after Memo 101 was drafted, which undercuts Ivanov’s apparent instruction. However, there is also the possibility that the DCCC hacks were considered part of the old tranche of compromised materials and had been passed along to Guccifer 2.0 before Ivanov’s putative about-face.

Easier to prove is that Russian operatives have resorted to amplifying “rumors and misinformation” related to hacked correspondence. The so-called “PizzaGate” conspiracy theory — that Hillary Clinton was running a pedophile ring out of a Washington, D.C. eatery — was a prominent staple of social media platforms administered by Russian agents, who seemed to form an infinite feedback loop with right-wing American outlets such as Fox News, Breitbart and InfoWars.

So, too, was the malicious fiction that the murder of DNC staffer Seth Rich was organized by the DNC itself, an allegation that had one particularly zealous taker in WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange, who also intimated at various points during the election cycle that Rich was the actual leaker of the DNC’s emails and was therefore killed in retaliation.

The claim that Russians were sowing disinformation among the genuine articles of compromised communications has similarly been borne out by subsequent forensic analysis.

In May 2017, Citizen Lab of the University of Toronto’s Munk School of Public Affairs examined the hacking of American journalist and Russia expert David Satter, whose emails were infiltrated and stolen by a “pro-Russia hacktivist collective” called CyberBerkut: “The tainted leak was a report authored by Satter describing Radio Liberty’s Russian Investigative Reporting Project. The document was modified to make Satter appear to be paying Russian journalists and anti-corruption activists to write stories critical of the Russian Government.”

Former Trump adviser and national security chief Michael Flynn as well as American Green Party leader Jill Stein were indeed both guests of the Kremlin propaganda outlet RT’s 10th anniversary gala dinner in a luxury hotel in Moscow in December 2015, where they were seated at the same table as Vladimir Putin.

Russian payments to Flynn were later confirmed in documents released by the House Oversight Committee; he collected nearly $68,000 in fees and expenses from Russia-related entities in 2015, the bulk of them came from RT, related to Flynn’s gala attendance in December. He also earned speaking feeds in the amounts of $11,250, from the U.S. subsidiary of Kaspersky Lab, and $11,250, from a U.S. air cargo company affiliated with Volga-Dnepr Group, a Russian airline holding company.

The Senate intelligence committee is currently investigating Jill Stein’s campaign for possible collusion with the Russians.

Political cultist Lyndon LaRouche’s ties to Russia go back decades and feature an assortment of pro-Moscow tracts, frequent guest appearances on RT and other Russian state media outlets, as well as his trips to Moscow, which LaRouche has reported on himself. Anton Shekhovtsov, a Vienna-based researcher on extremist groups and author of Russia and the Western Far Right: Tango Noir wrote of the relationships LaRouche established in Russia with, among others, nationalist politician Sergei Glazyev, who was minister of external economic relations and later an MP and now a prominent megaphone for the Putinist justification of the annexation of Crimea. Like LaRouche, Glazyev believes in a global Jewish conspiracy to undermine Russian imperialism, if not exterminate ethnic Russians. Historian Timothy Synder has also pointed out that the state of Ukraine, according to this deranged theory, is not only an artificial Jewish construction to block Eurasia but its current government is “a Nazi junta installed by the United States,” a paradoxical conspiratorial malady Snyder has named “schizofascism.”

Company Intelligence Report 2016/102

10 August 2016

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

This is the first suggestion that one of the goals of the operation was to turn Bernie Sanders supporters into Donald Trump supporters, preying upon populist and anti-establishment sentiments on the American left.
Trump adviser Carter Page is named as a campaign official who introduced this idea to the Russians.
Steele here follows up on the central thesis of his last memo by explaining the goal of the Wikileaks release of DNC emails, as told to him by an “ethnic Russian associate” of Trump: to swing angry and disillusioned Bernie Sanders voters away from voting for Clinton in the general election and toward voting for Trump, again, premised on their shared anti-establishment sentiment and “visceral” dislike of Clinton. Carter Page, in fact, is named by Steele as the architect of such an electoral gambit.

The DNC hack detailed a series of embarrassing emails showing that staffers on the committee expressed a clear preference for Clinton over Sanders, a point which incensed Sanders supporters during the primaries and led to the resignation of then DNC chairwoman Debbie Wasserman Schultz.

Schultz’s successor, Donna Brazile later wrote in her book Hacks, that the scales were heavily tilted within the party in Clinton’s favor, owing to a Joint Fund-Raising Agreement between the DNC, the Hillary Victory Fund, and Hillary for America, which effectively cast the party’s financial fortunes with that of a single primary candidate’s, while also giving that candidate the privileged status of anointed, if not inevitable, nominee. The Russians, of course, didn’t create this skullduggery within the DNC; they simply discovered and disseminated it, the better to divide and weaken Democrats riven between a socialist insurgent and an establishment liberal-centrist.

Sanders campaign officials, too, noticed the proliferation of trolls and operatives sharing anti-Clinton screeds on Sanders social media pages — many of them conspiracy theories about Clinton’s health, her supposed support for the so-called Islamic State or (again) the “Pizza-Gate” myth floated by websites whose domains originated in Eastern Europe and Macedonia, which was ground zero for paid “fake news” amplifiers on social media.

On Feb. 16, Mueller unveiled an indictment of 13 Russian individuals and three Russian entities, all associated with the Internet Research Agency, the notorious St. Petersburg-based “troll farm” run by Putin confidante and catering oligarch Yevgeny Prigozhin.

At this facility Russians are employed in shifts to influence discourse on various social media platforms. The U.S. Department of Justice accused those indicted attempting to “defraud the United States by impairing, obstructing, and defeating the lawful functions of the government through fraud and deceit for the purpose of interfering with the U.S. political and electoral processes.”

Company Intelligence Report 2016/105

22 August 2016

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

Paul Manafort, now indicted on dozens of charges and facing over 300 years in prison, is here named as both a back-channel to Trump and a major liability in the operation, given the money Manafort made (illegally) in Ukraine in support of now-former president Viktor Yanukovych.
Putin “suspected” that Manafort and Yanukovych hadn’t covered their tracks in this multi-million dollar kickback scheme, and he held a “secret” meeting with Yanukovych, who tried to reassure him, near the Russian city of Volgograd.
That fear that must have grown only more pronounced after Manafort’s termination as campaign chairman.
The most conspicuous link between Trump and the Russians, from the beginning, was Paul Manafort. His relations with Putin clients like Ukraine’s President Viktor Yanukovych, deposed in early 2014, and oligarchs in Putin’s circles like Oleg Deripaska, would have raised suspicions among anti-Russia hawks under almost any circumstances. Once Moscow’s meddling in the U.S. elections became the focus of national and international attention, his usefulness to Trump and, for that matter, to Moscow, was at an end.

Steele’s memo offers sidelights, but it was an investigation in Kiev reported in the New York Times more than a week before this memo that led to Manafort’s resignation from the Trump campaign on August 19.

Steele further claims that Corey Lewandowski, who “hated” Manafort, egged on Trump’s firing of the campaign chairman to “loosen his control on strategy and policy formulation.” Lewandowski is on the record telling the Washington Examiner, “I think if anybody … Paul Manafort, Roger Stone, or Rick Gates or Carter Page, or anybody else attempted to influence the outcome of the U.S. election through any means that’s inappropriate — through collusion, coordination or cooperation — I hope they go to jail for the rest of their lives.”

But he also believed that his boss, Donald Trump, showed no signs of any collusion with Russia. “And never ever ever did I hear him say, utter, insinuate anything to do with Russia. He never instructed me or anybody in my immediate presence to ever be involved with Russia, never mentioned Russia collusion, coordination, cooperation, or anything of that nature ever.”

His views on whether he wanted Manafort out of the campaign for strategy reasons — say, the changing of the GOP platform on Ukraine — are not on the public record.

But did the Putin-Yanukovych “secret” meeting near Volgograd actually take place? Putin did really travel to Volgograd on August 15 to inspect a new airport. And Yanukovych has been reported by the independent Russian publication Meduza as arriving in Volgograd on August 18 after Putin had left.

There is no independent confirmation in official channels of any meeting, and the one reference to it outside of The Dossier — in a November 4, 2016, Newsweek article by Kurt Eichenwald — appears to circle back to this Steele memo, which many national security correspondents knew about by then, and about which David Corn at Mother Jones had written extensively.

“According to information obtained from inside Russia by Western intelligence,” Eichenwald reported, “Putin later met with Yanukovych in secret near Volgograd, formerly known as Stalingrad. Yanukovych assured Putin there was no documentary trail showing payments to Manafort, although Putin told associates he did not believe the Ukrainian president, according to the information obtained by the Western intelligence source.”

The “information” here seems almost certainly to refer to The Dossier.

Company Intelligence Report 2016/111

14 September 2016

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

A code of silence is adopted by all Kremlin officials regarding the operation, although those responsible for it are now seemingly being punished. Sergey Ivanov is out as head of the Presidential Administration, replaced by someone with no knowledge of or role in it.
There is further mention of compromising material on Clinton, and a Russian “diplomat” in Washington, D.C. is called back to Moscow as the U.S. media is said to be close to exposing his role in the election interference.
The Kremlinology here is interesting, but may be considerably overstated. While the reshuffling in the Kremlin may be related to the change in circumstances of the Trump operation, it is important to note that Russia’s own parliamentary elections in September 2016 or other internal factors also offer plausible reasons for some career changes.

Putin evidently suffered from too many advisors, writes Steele, all falling into two camps on the election interference operation. In the more cautious camp, warning Putin of the negative fallout, were Russian ambassador to the U.S. Sergei Kislyak (now a figure of scrutiny by the Mueller investigation owing to his various meetings with senior Trump campaign officials), backed by the entirety of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and an “independent and informal network” run by Yuri Ushakov, a presidential foreign policy advisor. In the other, more full-steam-ahead camp were Sergei Ivanov and the SVR, Russian foreign intelligence, who told Putin that the operation would succeed with little blowback. Because Kislyak’s side had proved correct, Steele concludes, Putin sacked Ivanov as head of the Presidential Administration and replaced him with someone with absolutely no knowledge or involvement in the operation: Anton Vaino.

Vaino comes from an Estonian family that served Moscow and graduated from the prestigious Moscow State Institute for International Relations with his first posting at the Russian Embassy in Japan, then later served in other Foreign Ministry posts before going to the Presidential Administration.

He might be the very proof that the Trump operation “started in the foreign ministry,” as Steele maintained, before going to the presidential administration, but there’s no evidence that along the way he stopped at the FSB. There’s the additional problem of showing how an official with foreign policy experience in the Asia-Pacific region would be useful in a U.S. election, even if he spoke English. Then again, Vaino’s ascension may have been more about enabling Putin to have an independent loyalist free from entanglements with other Kremlin factions.

Company Intelligence Report 2016/112

14 September 2016

RUSSIA/US PRESIDENTIAL ELECTION: KREMLIN-ALPHA GROUP CO-OPERATION

Steele alleges that Alfa Group, a powerful banking company, maintains a good relationship with Vladimir Putin and that its three founders — Mikhail Fridman, Petr Aven and German Khan have even got kompromat on the Russian president.
Fridman, Aven and Khan give Putin crucial advice on the US political system, which presumably impacted the nature of the election interference.
The “Alpha” Group is actually spelled “Alfa.” This is yet another attempt to explore the relationships between Putin and his associates, but the links to election interference in the United States, if any, are not made explicit in the memo.

And yet, in October 2016, a month after it was drafted, Slate’s Franklin Foer published an article about a scientist who used the name “Tea Leaves” to air his concerns about evidence that Alfa Bank’s computer servers kept looking up the unique internet address of one Trump Organization server in the U.S. Between May and September 2016, Alfa’s servers pinged the Trump counterpart 2,820 times, far more than any other external machine had, as CNN reported. Foer laid out the case of various cybersecurity researchers who had become alarmed at this discovery in the context of the DNC hack.

Next, four authors from The Intercept, including Micah Lee, the computer security engineer who once helped Edward Snowden, refuted Foer’s experts’ findings, claiming that there was an innocent explanation for the servers pinging — spam in the form of Trump marketing materials.

The New York Times similarly refuted Foer, reporting that the FBI had looked into the matter and concluded “that there could be an innocuous explanation, like a marketing email or spam, for the computer contacts.”

However, CNN reported in March 2017 that the FBI hadn’t quite given up on its probe and that the Alfa-Trump server communication was “in the hands of the FBI’s counterintelligence team — the same one looking into Russia’s suspected interference in the 2016 election.”

Steele suggests that the Alfa executives — Mikhail Fridman, Petr Aven and German Khan — were all on “very good terms” with Vladimir Putin and that Russian president delivers business and legal favors for the Alfa oligarchs, while they deliver political favors for Putin. Moreover, Fridman’s “mediator” with Putin is said to be Oleg Govorun, a senior Presidential Administration official and former head of government relations at Alfa Group, in the 1990s. Steele alleges that Govorun was the “driver” and “bag carrier” used by Fridman and Aven to send “large amounts of illicit cash” to Putin when he was deputy mayor of St. Petersburg. As such, Alfa Group has “kompromat” on Putin from this period.

Putin’s relationships with Fridman, Aven and Khan are all visible. Fridman, for example gained Putin’s blessing for a $6.15 billion deal to create the joint British-Russian venture TNK-BP.

Oleg Govorun has been far less conspicuous. His official biography online shows him as having once served as the director for government liaison for Alfa, a job description that could conceivably cover driving bags of cash to Putin. But not while Putin was based in St. Petersburg, as Steele implies because that period precedes Govorun’s employment. Putin moved to Moscow in 1997, at which point Govorun assumed his job as the bank’s government liaison director. From 1995 to 1997, Govorun worked for Mikhail Khodorkovsky’s Rosprom when Vladislav Surkov, now the Kremlin’s “grey cardinal,” was also there; Surkov also went to Alfa-Bank in 1997.

Khan’s London-based son-in-law, Alex van der Zwaan, was indicted by Mueller on Feb. 20 for lying to the FBI about his 2012 legal work for the Ukrainian Ministry of Justice, for which, as lawyer with Skadden, Arps, Slate, Meagher & Flom, he prepared a report about the trial of Yulia Tymoshenko, a rival to the then-Ukrainian president Viktor Yanukovych. The charges relate to the FBI’s investigation of Paul Manafort and specifically what van der Zwaan told investigators about his communication with Manafort’s partner Rick Gates.

Tymoshenko, a prominent figure in Ukraine’s 2004 “Orange Revolution,” has long been seen as a thorn in the Kremlin’s side, and her conviction and imprisonment was judged to be politically motivated by the European Court of Human Rights. Yanukovych, who lost the presidency in 2004 but won it in 2010, was Putin’s stalking-horse in Ukraine. Might Steele here have been alluding, by “significant favors,” to Khan’s son-in-law’s work, via a white-shoe London law firm, to ensure that a major rival of Moscow’s man in Kiev remained behind bars? Skadden told the Washington Post that it terminated van der Zwaan’s employment in 2017, a year after the dossier was published.

Khan, Aven and Fridman are suing BuzzFeed for defamation.

Company Intelligence Report 2016/113

14 September 2016

RUSSIA/US PRESIDENTIAL ELECTION- REPUBLICAN CANDIDATE PRIOR ACTIVITIES IN ST PETERSBURG

Steele revisits the sexual kompromat on Trump, this time an episode that allegedly took place in St. Petersburg and for which Trump paid hush-money to keep from being exposed.
Trump’s friend and escort around Russia, Araz Agalarov, is said to know all the details of this scandal.
More sexual innuendo in a memo with particularly flimsy sourcing: “two well-placed sources based in St. Petersburg” could be anybody, and it seems unlikely that either of them had government connections or else they would have been mentioned. However, Steele is correct in his description of Russian-Azeri construction magnate Aras Agalarov, who played a not-too-marginal role in the U.S. election.

Agalarov’s pop star son Emin, the ex-husband of Leyla Aliyeva, the daughter Azerbaijan’s dictator, is also chummy with the Trump family, and Emin’s British publicist, Rob Goldstone, helped arrange that infamous Trump Tower meeting with Russian lawyer Natalia Veselnitskaya. Donald Trump even appeared in a 2013 music video for Emin’s song “In Another Life” to mouth his catchphrase from The Apprentice: “You’re fired!”

Trump has heaped praise on “Russia’s Ricky Martin”: “You’re a winner, you’re a champ, you’re great at real estate,” Trump once recorded in a birthday video for Emin, “and boy, can you entertain!”

Emin’s billionaire father is a recipient of the Order of the Honor of the Russian Federation and tried and failed to get a Trump Tower built in Moscow, evidently at his son’s encouraging. “I convinced my father it would be cool to have next to each other the Trump Tower and Agalarov Tower, and he was kind of into it at some point,” Emin told the Washington Post. Still, there was one major Trump-related project Agalarov’s company Crocus Group, a Russian real estate giant, did successfully come through on: hosting the Miss Universe Pageant in Moscow in November 2013 in one of its concert halls. Trump was not only in attendance at the pageant, at which he had badly wanted to meet Vladimir Putin (he didn’t), but it was on this trip that he stayed at the Ritz-Carlton and allegedly arranged that “golden showers” episode mentioned earlier, adding plausibility to Agalarov’s knowledge of it.

According to Bloomberg, Trump spent quite a lot of time with the Agalarovs in Moscow. On November 8, 2013, he was spotted at a dinner at the pricy sushi restaurant Nobu, which closed its doors to other customers that evening. In attendance were Aras, Emin and German Gref, the powerful chief of the Russian state-owned Sberbank, and the table talk consisted of “currency rates and the prospect of a breakup of the European Union, which Trump dismissed as unlikely,” Bloomberg reported, citing Aras’s recall of the evening. That same night, Trump then attended a 58th birthday party for Aras at the Crocus City complex, where the Miss Universe contest was being held. The following day, November 9, Trump filmed his bit for Emin’s music video

Given that we can place Trump and Agalarovs at the Ritz in Moscow, might it be that either Aras or Emin — or both — were also sources for the dossier , albeit not for this memo, which explicitly refers to Aras as someone with first-hand knowledge of Trump’s allegedly lascivious activities in St. Petersburg, as relayed to Steele by two (presumably separate) sources in that city?

As previously discussed, the Washington Post has identified Source D as Sergei Millian, a slightly jumped-up Belarusian emigre of questionable closeness to the Trump campaign. Yet Source D is elsewhere described in the dossier (see Memo 80) as “a close associate of Trump who had organized and managed his recent trips to Moscow.” This seems to hew much closer to the roles played by the elder and junior Agalarov than to that of Millian; indeed Trump tweeted to Agalarov on November 11, and to Emin on November 12, and on November 27, Emin sent a reply to Trump “Thank you Sir we look forward to receiving you back in Moscow soon for some new exciting projects,” which Trump re-tweeted.

Company Intelligence Report 2016/130

12 October 2016

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

The Kremlin suffers from “buyer’s remorse” over supporting Trump and laments that leaked Clinton emails haven’t been as damaging to the campaign as it had hoped. Putin is angry at the officials who promised much but delivered little by way of this operation.
It was always Moscow’s strategy not merely to promote Trump, but to undermine Clinton, and for that matter, the whole American political process. As we know from reporting outside of the dossier, massive efforts were made on social media platforms to create divisive groups and incite them to hatred and confusion, even succeeding in staging real-world demonstrations on widely different causes.

Steele’s sources here are a “trusted compatriot,” “a senior Russian leadership figure” and a “Foreign Ministry official.” Putin is reported as “surprised and disappointed” that the Clinton email leaks did not take a greater toll on her candidacy and, contradicting the previous memo suggesting that no more leaks would be forthcoming, the senior leadership figure suggests that more hacked Clinton material “had been injected by the Kremlin into compliant western media outlets like Wikileaks.” Strangely, and despite his insistence on caution with respect to the election interference operation, Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov is said to be next on the chopping block.

As the dossier indicates, the foreign minister would be the “good cop” of an operation to turn a U.S. election, and so it would not make sense any sense for Lavrov to be dismissed as an official who got carried away with this work. It would only make sense if the more aggressive or “bad cop” group was winning and wanted to punish its softer rival.

Yet the only conspicuous fall in the Kremlin was that of Sergei Ivanov. As we explained above, he didn’t fall too far: he retained his permanent seat in the National Security Council and was entrusted with the delicate task of denying any Russian subversion of American sovereignty in the Financial Times. Other figures transferred from the presidential administration were not necessarily dismissed because of a botched intelligence or active measures operation, but rather repositioned to help with Putin’s election campaign or other domestic purposes or people whose time had come to disappear from the spotlight for the busier and less visible environs of the Russian parliament.

We have no way of proving the U.S. election sabotage started in the Foreign Ministry, which again, presents “good cop/bad cop” problems; it would be more logical that such an operation originated in the FSB. The real challenge in Steele’s work is to account for why the Presidential Administration was given any part of this assignment at all apart from the obvious explanation that Putin wanted to keep the whole business as closely held as possible. In our view, there is ample evidence of the involvement of Vyacheslav Volodin and his staff in the Presidential Administration in Internet influence operations that began inside Russia and were turned against the U.S.

The Kremlin at least purported to feign buyer’s remorse in media manipulation to distance itself from Trump as the election grew near, but then, its actual aim all along, as a careful study of Russian state media has demonstrated was to undermine Hillary Clinton and the democratic political process as a whole.

As Luke Harding noted in The Guardian in November, in an excerpt from his book Collusion: Secret Meetings, Dirty Money, and how Russia Helped Donald Trump Win, one of KGB’s “specialties” in Soviet times, when Putin got his training as a spy and secret policeman, was breaking into the apartments of suspected foreign intelligence operatives or others state security wanted intimidate: “The owners are always away, of course. The KGB leave a series of clues – stolen shoes, women’s tights knotted together, cigarette butts stomped out and left demonstratively on the floor. Or a surprise turd in the toilet, waiting in grim ambush. The message, crudely put, is this: we are the masters here! We can do what the fuck we please!” One thinks of that when looking at Putin’s seeming insouciance when it comes to covering his tracks.

Putin’s refusal to engage in tit-for-tat expulsions of Americans after President Obama booted 35 Russian diplomats — most, if not all, of them believed to be spies — and the closure of two Russian missions in the U.S., in reaction to the election interference, may be taken as a shrewd wait-and-see approach. After all, this was a topic of conversation between Trump advisor and future national security adviser Michael Flynn and now-former Russian ambassador to Washington Sergei Kislyak. President-Elect Trump famously praised Putin for his restraint, writing on Twitter, “Great move on delay (by V. Putin) – I always knew he was very smart!”

So Putin would shortly have reason to believe that his hostile act might not meet with proportional response from an incoming president.

Company Intelligence Report 2016/134

18 October 2016

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

Steele alleges that Trump aide Carter Page met with Rosneft CEO Igor Sechin in Moscow in July 2016. Sechin, who apparently thought Trump had a real shot at the presidency until October 2016, offered Page a cut of a lucrative privatization scheme for Rosneft in exchange for Trump’s lifting of sanctions on Russian officials and entities.
This memo also discussed Trump’s personal attorney Michael Cohen’s role in managing the Trump-Russia relationship.
The reason that Robert Mueller is investigating Donald Trump and his family and organization’s financials is to look for any unaccountable revenue, which may have derived from Russian entities or individuals as kickbacks or payoffs for illicit activities, including what we now generally call “collusion.”

Here Steele suggests that Igor Sechin, the CEO of Rosneft and a former KGB officer, was willing to gift either the “brokerage” of a 19 privatized percent stake in the Russian state-owned oil giant, or the stake itself — a distinction with a sizable difference, as we’ll discuss below.

At the time Steele wrote this memo, Rosneft was indeed finalizing a major multi-billion dollar deal, purportedly for the sale of a 19.5 percent stake of the company to 50/50 joint venture between Qatar and the Swiss commodities trader Glencore. No third party tied to Trump or his associates has ever been linked.

As we noted in the discussion about Memo 94, we have no proof that Igor Sechin ever met Carter Page and we cannot prove he remained in Moscow July 6 when Page was in Moscow. A “close associate of Sechin” who met with Page in Moscow in July 2016 would likely be Andrey Baranov, head of investor relations at Rosneft, but Page denies they discussed any quid pro quo for energy cooperation or lifting sanctions as they sat in a bar watching a soccer game.

The Dossier makes the mistake — also replicated by media — that Page made a speech to the “Higher Economic School” in Moscow when in fact Page is well documented as giving a lecture at the World Trade Center Moscow at the invitation of the New Economic School on July 7, then speaking at a commencement ceremony at the school on July 8. That is an important distinction because the institutions are different; the prominent oligarchs and officials who back NES include Deputy Prime Minister Arkady Dvorkovich, with whom Page at least admitted shaking hands.

The claim in the memo’s “summary” regarding Rosneft’s “offer of a large stake” appears to be a mistake within the memo’s own terms because in Steele’s “detail” he refers to an offer of the brokerage of up to of 19% of the stake, not to the stake itself.

The first would be (and was) a colossal sum in the billions; the second would be the equivalent of a smaller but still rather impressive commission or finder’s fee in the multiple millions. Yet it is unclear, from this discrepancy between the summary and detail, which Steele meant.

Steele’s source also contradicts him/herself in describing the same events.

Just how seriously did the Kremlin guard its offloading of almost 20 percent of Russia’s largest oil company? So seriously that a leading business news portal, RBC, was slapped with a crippling $49.5million libel suit for suggesting, based on sources inside the Presidential Administration, that the government had warned British multinational BP not to get involved in the privatization scheme.

Qatar and Glencore bought the 19.5% stake for 10.2 billion euros, or $12.7 billion. Assuming that figure is close to a real market price — although, again, the details of the deal remain murky — it is several times Donald Trump’s actual (as opposed to touted) net worth, according to Forbes magazine. It also seems an all-too-conspicuous “gift” to hide even in an archipelago of offshore accounts, although Russian elites close to Putin have certainly tried.

A brokerage fee on 10.2 billion euros might be a less eye-catching bribe, but again, we cannot be sure as to the amount or even if a brokerage is what Steele actually meant to write.

On Dec. 8, 2016, a day after the Rosneft sale to Qatar and Glencore was announced, Carter Page was again in Moscow. On Dec. 12, he was introduced at a press conference by Shlomo Weber, the rector of the New Economic School, the forum at which Page had lectured earlier that year.

In a slide show presentation, Page showed photographs of German Gref, the head of Sberbank, and Igor Sechin, “the foundation for positive change.” And he referred to interactions he’d had with a Rosneft executive, without naming names.He denied ever having met Sechin, however.

The Russian state news service TASS also reported that Page had mentioned the newly inked Rosneft deal, but in a spirit of disappointment that no American entities were involved in it owing to sanctions. “Unfortunately it’s a great example of where, um, you know, this recent deal which Glencore and Qatar was able to move forward with unfortunately, United States’ actors were constrained. And I think that there is a lot of ways where, you know, a lot of impacts of sanctions has really affected individuals from the U.S. side much more so than we’ve seen in Russia.”

Was Page acting on the authority of the Trump campaign when dealing with any Russian contact? He was still serving as an advisor to the campaign in July 2016. He had the authorization of Cory Lewandowski to make the trip to Russia, but only on the condition that he make the trip as a private citizen.

According to Politico, Page, a former naval officer, had asked J.D. Gordon, his supervisor at the National Security Advisory Committee, for permission to make the trip. Gordon, also a former naval officer, strongly advised against it.

As noted above, the Russia media reported Page as a “Trump advisor” and he was identified as such at his public lecture at the New Economic School and as a speaker at the NES commencement, where his role was to serve as a prestigious and friendly American figure handing out diplomas to graduating Russian economics students.

But Page would not have been too ideologically divergent from the candidate he served even if he didn’t have either Trump’s blessing or that of Trump’s chief lieutenants. By July, Trump was saying openly that, if elected, he would consider recognizing Russia’s annexation of Crimea and lifting U.S. sanctions and that only Congress was in his way His recent refusal to impose new sanctions on Russian officials would appear to lend credence to his belief that these are counterproductive or that he has a personal reason not to penalize the Kremlin any further.

Company Intelligence Report 2016/135

19 October 2016

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

Michael Cohen’s role was not only managing the American side of this conspiracy but also covering up the damage caused by Paul Manafort’s ouster from the campaign and Carter Page’s unflattering media attention.
Cohen allegedly met with Russian officials in an “EU country” in August 2016. Steele also delves into more Kremlinology, the hiring and firing of officials, as it pertains to the Trump-Russia conspiracy.
This central claim in this memo may be true simply because Michael Cohen is the American figure in the dossier who has been the hardest to pin down and may have taken the most precautions for secrecy. Also note that in late September Carter Page, heretofore seen as the main liaison between the Trump campaign (as a factotum of Paul Manafort, whose surname is here misspelled with an extra “n”) took a permanent “leave of absence” following the U.S. media’s exposure of his ties to Russia.

It would make sense that the campaign was now in need of a new relay with Russian officials, who may well have begun to feel the “heat” of American counterintelligence efforts to uncover a conspiracy owing to the fact that in mid-October, the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) court approved a surveillance request to monitor the activities of two banks “suspected of being part of the Kremlin’s undercover influence operation,” in the words of Britain’s Guardian newspaper. Paul Manafort and Carter Page were also surveilled, before and after the election, through FISA warrants.

Cohen’s role in “damage limitation” as Trump’s personal attorney does appear to be true, given what the Wall Street Journal has lately reported: that he was the one to orchestrate Trump’s $130,000 pay-off to Stormy Daniels, the porn actress he allegedly had an affair with, to keep her story from appearing in the press prior to the election. Nevertheless, we cannot confirm his orchestration of direct contact with the Kremlin through agents of influence in pro-government policy institutes.

Perhaps coincidentally, on October 31 — 12 days after the dating of this memo — Mother Jones’ David Corn would break the story of the existence of The Dossier and the FBI’s possession of it, which, if Russian intelligence was privy to or had a hand in influencing, would have made them more circumspect as to any interaction with the Trump team.

Company Intelligence Report 2016/136

20 October 2016

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

Michael Cohen met with Russian officials in Prague, at the headquarters of a dubious Russian state-run agency.
An unnamed “Kremlin insider” identifies Duma deputy Konstantin Kosachev as “an important figure” in the Trump-Kremlin liaison operation. Kosachev “may have” also attended meetings with Cohen in Prague.
The Dossier’s claims regarding Trump’s lawyer Michael Cohen and Kremlin officials and hackers have been intensively scrutinized by media as they seem to indicate the operational side for not only how the hack of the DNC could play out, but the massive influence operation run by the Kremlin to disrupt American elections in general.

On the one hand, the use of Rossotrudnichestvo, or other “soft” Russian entities for such purposes, seems too public for the purpose but, on the other, is perfect for running large projects and moving people and funds around.

In an interview with Czech newspaper Respekt, Oleg Solodukhin an official from Russia’s foreign friendship operation Rossotrudnichestvo (in English, the Russian Committee for Cooperation) said he had not met with Cohen or any foreigners.

But Jakub Janda, the Deputy Director of the European Values Think-Tank, a Czech institute based in Prague, has stated that Solodukhin, the official from Rossotrudnichestvo, was well known to him. In fact, Solodukhin came to the think tank’s meetings, and would have seen foreigners there although no dates can be correlated with those in The Dossier.

Reporters from Aktualne.cz and Respekt tried to check Steele’s claims regarding Cohen starting in mid-December. Czech police claimed they knew nothing about the meeting and that Michael Cohen had not passed through passport control in the Czech Republic. A detail from the local press version of this story failed to get into international news. “If the meeting took place, they didn’t fly into the Czech Republic,” a reliable security source in the security community told the Czech reporters.

What that leaves open is the possibility that Cohen could have flown to a neighboring country, then rented a car or reached Prague by train, and would not have been checked at the border. The story then adds a third local point that was lost in foreign coverage: other sources with whom the Czech editors spoke claim that no one was watching this meeting of Americans and Russians, and that there was no proof of it. Czech police and intelligence may not have wished to get involved in spying on meetings between members of the Trump campaign and Russian operatives, for whatever reason, or, aren’t interested in talking about it now.

Meanwhile, the way this story was covered in the West, Czech intelligence appeared to clear Cohen from allegations that he traveled to Prague, and Cohen himself denied he was in Prague during those dates. Cohen does admit he was first in Italy in July, and then at home in the U.S. on August 29.

This prompted much Twitter sleuthing to see whether he could have driven from Italy to Prague in time to appear at meetings and still get home in time for his August 29 alibi in the U.S., or whether there would be a stamp in his passport to prove it. Cohen posted a picture of his passport cover on Twitter to imply it was in order. He then shared the inside pages of it with Buzzfeed, none of which show a Czech Republic stamp.

Even if Cohen had gone to Prague, there might not be any stamp in his passport for perfectly valid reasons. Within the European Schengen zone — all EU countries barring the UK, Ireland, Bulgaria, Romania, Cyprus and Croatia — no stamps would be made or records placed in any police database. So an American traveling from one EU country to another would have his initial EU stamp and the next EU country would find that stamp sufficient and not add another. Cohen might have conceivably flown from Italy to Prague without having a documentary trace of doing so in his passport although there is no evidence of this.

For a while, the hunt to place Trump’s personal attorney in Prague seemed to dissipate. But then, on April 13, 2018, McClatchy reported that the Mueller team did indeed possess evidence that Cohen had traveled to Prague in August 2016. If true, as a news service notes, that revelation would “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.”

Cohen’s recent behavior indicates that he is all too willing to cooperate with federal investigators in a separate case scrutinizing his business practices — even if that means turning on his most famous client. Authorities seized a tape recording he made of his phone conversation with Trump, in the fall of 2016, about buying the rights to an account told by a Playboy model of an alleged affair she had with the Republican candidate. He has also told the media that his loyalty to Trump is at least third in his order of priorities. “My wife, my daughter and my son have my first loyalty and always will,” Cohen told George Stephanopoulos in July. “I put family and country first.”

If Cohen went to Prague when Steele said he did, there is every reason to suspect that he has admitted such to the FBI as part of his ongoing cooperation.

As for Konstantin Kosachev, like Anton Vaino, he is a graduate of Moscow State Institute of International Relations. He began his career in the Foreign Ministry and served in the Russian Embassy in Sweden in 1991; he also served as an advisor to Sergei Kiriyenko when Kiriyenko was Boris Yeltsin’s prime minister.

This memo errs in calling Kosachev the head of the State Duma’s Foreign Affairs Committee at the time of the alleged meetings with Cohen in 2016. In fact, Kosachev held that position from 2003 to 2011. Kosachev served as head of Rossotrudnichestvo from 2012 to 2014. In 2014, he became a senator to Russia’s Federation Council, the upper house of parliament, and was elected the head of its Foreign Affairs Committee.

Kosachev addressed the accusations leveled against him by Steele on his Facebook page on January 11, 2017. Kosachev correctly noted that, as of 2016, he hadn’t been the chairman of the Duma’s Foreign Affairs Committee chairman for five years (true), nor was he acquainted with Michael Cohen or even aware of who he was. “I have not been in Prague or other Czech cities for about five years, maybe even more,” Kosachev posted to the social media platform.

We were able to determine that Kosachev took part in a conference in Prague titled “Democracy in the Post-Soviet Space – 20 Years” on September 11, 2012 and so he was about nine months off in his timeline — assuming that was the last trip he took to the Czech capital.

There is no open source proof that Kosachev has ever been in Cohen’s company, however.

Company Intelligence Report 2016/166

13 December 2016

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

Following from the previous memo, this one adds that Michael Cohen was accompanied to Prague by “3 colleagues” who are unnamed.
Among the topics of discussion with their Russian interlocutors were how the Trump team might pay the Russian-hired hackers who targeted the Clinton campaign.
The final Steele memo is the only one produced after Trump’s election, yet it makes no mention of this event and instead retreads and elaborates much of what was discussed in Memo 136.

The “three colleagues,” mentioned by Steele, who purportedly traveled with Michael Cohen have not been verified and there is no evidence of payment schemes, although it is certainly plausible using Rossotrudnichestvo’s vast budget and networks, which are surely watched by Western intelligence services.

Steele refers to a company whose name is redacted in this memo as having used “botnets and porn traffic to transmit viruses, plant bugs, steal data and conduct ‘altering operations’ against the Democratic Party leadership.” In Prague, Cohen allegedly discussed contingency plans in the event that Clinton won the election: namely to pay off all remaining debts to cyber operators, in cash, and to stand them all down.

Security specialist Krebs, in commenting early on the DNC hack, described the botnets used by Russian hackers in the DNC hack, and focused on Evgeniy Bogachev, one of the hackers named in the U.S. government’s assessment of the perpetrators of the DNC hack. His post highlights one of the disagreements among cybersecurity specialists about why tracks of Russian hackers are often found in hacks as if they don’t seem to care. Some believe they have been careless and other think they are actually trying to send a message with a signature but as Krebs points out, they may never leave Russia and therefore have no concern about being apprehended.

Steele also writes that “Romanian hackers” were among the cyber operatives told to stop their activity and to repair to a “bolt-hole in Plovdiv, Bulgaria.” His source here is an associate of Sergei Ivanov, the former head of the Presidential Administration, who adds that the operatives were paid by both the Trump camp and the Kremlin.

No Russian hackers related to the DNC hack have been found in Plovdiv, Bulgaria, although 23 hackers were arrested in Bulgaria in May 2017 who were part of an international crime group that used malware to gain access to the Bulgarian Customs Agency.
https://codastory.com/disinformation/di ... a-dossier/
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