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Re: The Russian Conspiracy as RI subject

PostPosted: Sat Oct 17, 2020 2:09 pm
by Marionumber1
Excellent point, Jack, about how Russiagate has relied on conflating Russian organized crime (that tends to be aligned with Western business interests and intelligence services) with Vladimir Putin. That's something I've often tried to point out to my liberal friends and family still buying into "Trump the Putin puppet", but unsurprisingly have had go in one ear and out the other almost every time.

One of the biggest casualties of this current Russiagate narrative is the near-total erasure of how the CIA and Russian mafia have been solid business partners since at least the collapse of the Soviet Union. A lot of credit has to be given to Daniel Hopsicker, who was pursuing these aspects over a decade before Russiagate was a story at all.

Take, for instance, the Gulfstream II that crashed in Mexico in 2006 with 3.6 tons of cocaine onboard:

[...]

The intrigue surrounding the corporate craft, a Gulfstream II, deepened last Monday, when the plane crashed in Mexico’s Yucatan peninsula carrying 3.6 tons of cocaine.

The Gulfstream had been owned by Hotel Gansevoort proprietor William Achenbaum from 2001 until Aug. 30 of this year – more than three weeks before the plane crashed.

The plane was reportedly sold to Florida aircraft broker Donna Blue Aircraft, which then promptly peddled it to another man, Clyde O’Connor, for $2 million.

When Achenbaum owned the plane, it was managed by a Long Beach, Calif., company, Air Rutter International, which offered it for charter.

Air Rutter is owned by Arik Kislin of Long Island, who according to the Hotel Gansevoort’s liquor license is also a principal in the hotel.

Earlier this year, The Post reported that a Manhattan company Kislin ran in the 1990s had sponsored a U.S. visa sought by an alleged Russian mob hit man.

During the time that Kislin’s associate, Achenbaum, owned the plane, it made trips in 2003, 2004 and 2005 to the U.S. military base in Guantanamo Bay in Cuba, the McClatchy Newspapers group reported.

[...]


Arik Kislin is the nephew and business partner of Russian mobster Semyon Kislin aka Sam Kislin, who donated extensively to both Democratic (Chuck Schumer, the Clinton-Gore campaign, etc.) and Republican (Rudy Giuliani, Alfonse D'Amato, etc.) politicians. So we have a plane owned by a well-connected Russian mob operative that is doing CIA rendition flights and smuggling cocaine on the side.

Sam Kislin was business partners with another reported Russian mobster Tamir Sapir, whose organization partnered with the Bayrock Group that developed many of the Trump brand properties. And a little-noted fact in his biography is that, after he and Sam emigrated from the USSR and started their electronics store business in NYC, he was invited to join the Council for American-Soviet Trade headed by none other than "then-Vice President [and longtime spook] George H.W. Bush".

Per the previously-linked Public Integrity article, Sam Kislin's firm was also being used for money laundering by Mikhail Chernoy, a Russian aluminum oligarch and reported mobster. Chernoy just happens to be one of the chief financiers of the Intelligence Summit, a group for military and intelligence operatives around the world to come together to discuss new tactics in the "war on terror".

Chernoy's rival in the aluminum business, Oleg Deripaska, indeed has similar connections too. The head of Guyana's state privatization efforts, Michael Brassington Sr., opted to sell Guyana's state-owned bauxite mining company to Deripaska's RusAl corporation back in the 90s. His son Michael Brassington was a drug smuggler who flew numerous heroin flights on planes owned by Wally Hilliard of Venice FL, a former Wisconsin health insurance executive whose company was bought out by the company of Myron Du Bain, a politically-connected businessman who once served in the OSS (the CIA's predecessor). Brassington even had a letter from Customs telling them to ignore his prior July 2000 drug bust, the kind of protection that CIA drug pilots often enjoy. Note that the intended final stop on that July 2000 flight was a contact in Brighton Beach NY, a known Russian mob enclave. So once again, we have the outlines of a CIA drug running operation in partnership with Russian organized crime.

And Hilliard, meanwhile, is most prominent for owning the Huffman Aviation flight school in Venice FL where 9/11 hijackers Mohammed Atta and Marwah al-Shehhi trained. Atta's closest friend during that time was reportedly Wolfgang Bohringer, a German pilot who boasted of knowing Atta and stated, upon his 2006 arrest on international terrorism charges, that "You can’t arrest me, I’m working for the CIA". Bohringer also happened to boast that he was a smuggler for Russian mobster Viktor Kozeny. Kozeny pulled off multiple privatization scams in the former Soviet Union, first with a voucher scheme in the Czech Republic and then a fraudulent oil venture in Azerbaijan.
His partners in the Czech scam included George Bush Sr.'s chief of staff John Sununu. His partners in the Azerbaijan scam included former US Army Counter Intelligence officer, Senate majority leader, and Jeffrey Epstein pedophile pal George Mitchell, fashion company owner and Jeffrey Epstein black-book associate Frederic Bourke, and the CIA-linked financial firm American International Group (AIG). Back during the time of the Czech scam, rumors were going around that Kozeny laundered money for Colombian drug cartels or even "was a tool of the CIA". Imagine that.

Re: The Russian Conspiracy as RI subject

PostPosted: Sat Oct 17, 2020 2:35 pm
by Harvey
^Thanks for that densely packed nugget.

Re: The Russian Conspiracy as RI subject

PostPosted: Sat Oct 24, 2020 11:09 pm
by stickdog99

Re: The Russian Conspiracy as RI subject

PostPosted: Tue Oct 27, 2020 3:08 pm
by stickdog99

Re: The Russian Conspiracy as RI subject

PostPosted: Wed Oct 28, 2020 5:40 pm
by Grizzly

Re: The Russian Conspiracy as RI subject

PostPosted: Thu Oct 29, 2020 9:46 pm
by Grizzly

Re: The Russian Conspiracy as RI subject

PostPosted: Sat Oct 31, 2020 1:29 am
by Grizzly
The Real Hunter Biden Story Everyone is Missing
https://zeynep.substack.com/p/ignoringblackmail
Why aren't we paying attention to the blatant blackmail?

The Trump campaign’s associates, apparently, had these alleged materials for many months, if not for a full year. They decided to release the contents with little time for anyone to actually investigate them. Why should that be rewarded with attention and innuendo, instead of being treated properly?


The above is bullshit, from what I understand it was the FBI not Cheeto's team that sat on this bombshell for over a year, further, I believe there is some truth to the ObombaObidenClinton shadow/wetwork on the sealteam 6. We know for a fact that the burial at sea was complete stagecraft.

For all we know OBin Laden, is somewhere hanging out with JE and Maxwell.

Competing Cabals or alliances of convenience?

'Chicago style' vs Treason 6 (Poppy's boys)

Lastly, Trump fired Comey because Comey is a FUCKING CROOKED liar so is Wray, and in with the Clapper, Brennan, Hayden, Mueller, Alexander, treason 6, having said that, blackmail is indeed what makes Washington tick. But this Cabal has gone way beyond blackmail... I'd even throw in Holder from DOJ completing 'Chicago style'.

Zeynep certainly has a point about attention and timing (Attention vs speech) etc, but she doesn't see the wider screen of traitor's of the democratic republic and the mere thought that ObombaObidenClinton 'Chicago style' would have the PNAC crowd on their side, tells you all you really need to know about her limited view. They're all grifters making hey, while the Treason 6, (Poppy's boys? surely Bar is one) sale out the country. But wtf do I know...

Image

Re: The Russian Conspiracy as RI subject

PostPosted: Tue Nov 03, 2020 3:11 pm
by stickdog99

Re: The Russian Conspiracy as RI subject

PostPosted: Tue Dec 22, 2020 10:17 pm
by conniption
Red army choir doing Jingle Bells

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pwvWimEK_rA
•Dec 28, 2015
Pybeh83

~~~

"Last Christmas"

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rHVBa2DcdIQ
Dec 24, 2018
Red Guard Choir
Remake of George Michael's famous Christmas song by the Red Army Choir by General Victor Eliseev

Re: The Russian Conspiracy as RI subject

PostPosted: Mon Jan 11, 2021 5:07 pm
by stickdog99
https://www.realclearinvestigations.com ... 26696.html

It's Trump's Last Chance to Declassify These Secrets of the Russia Collusion Dud

By Aaron Maté, RealClearInvestigations
January 10, 2021

President Trump's last days in office offer a final opportunity to declassify critical information on the Russia investigation that engulfed his lone term.

Already voluminous public records – including investigative reports from Special Counsel Robert Mueller, Congress and the Justice Department’s inspector general – have established that Trump and his associates were targeted with a baseless Russian collusion allegation. The fraudulent claim originated with the Hillary Clinton campaign, was fueled by a torrent of false or deceptive intelligence leaks, and was improperly investigated by the FBI, potentially to the point of being criminal. Despite these disclosures, key questions remain about the origins and the spread of the conspiracy theory. And with a Biden administration set to take office and Democrats taking control of both chambers of Congress, there are no guarantees that the ongoing probe of Special Counsel John Durham will fill in the remaining gaps.

Both the CIA and FBI have been slow to produce much material that Trump reportedly wants declassified. They argue that disclosure would reveal sources and methods vital to national security. Such claims arouse skepticism because they have been used in the past to cover up malfeasance – as the public learned when deceptive FISA warrant applications used to spy on Trump campaign adviser Carter Page were finally released.

Before he leaves office on Jan. 20, Trump could use his declassification authority to help clear up some of the following critical issues of the Russiagate saga:

Joseph Mifsud: Is there any proof he worked as a Russian agent? What Did the Feds Really Know About Joseph Mifsud?

What we were told: The FBI says it opened its Trump-Russia investigation on July 31, 2016 after learning of a potential offer of Russian assistance to junior Trump campaign volunteer George Papadopoulos. It later emerged that the offer came from a Maltese academic named Joseph Mifsud, whom US officials have suggested was acting as a Russian cutout.

What we learned: When the FBI document that opened the Crossfire Hurricane probe was finally disclosed by the DOJ Inspector General in December 2019, it turned out that the FBI’s tip was vague hearsay drawn from a London barroom chat. Australian diplomat Alexander Downer reported that Papadopoulos "suggested" that the Trump team had received "some of kind of suggestion from Russia" of possible help to the campaign "with the anonymous release of information." The FBI document acknowledged that the nature of this "suggestion" was "unclear," and that this possible Russian help could entail "material acquired publicly" – as opposed to hacked emails.

Alexander Downer: His vague hearsay from a London barroom chat supposedly touched off the FBI's Crossfire Hurricane probe.

After Mifsud was identified as the man Papadopoulos allegedly spoke with, Mueller’s team depicted him as having extensive and suspect contacts with Russia. This portrayal erased the fact that Mifsud's closest public ties had been to Western governments, politicians, and institutions, including the CIA, FBI and British intelligence services. Despite Mifsud’s central role in the investigation, the FBI conducted only one brief interview with him in the lobby of a Washington, DC, hotel in February 2017. The Mueller team later claimed that Mifsud gave false statements to FBI agents yet, conspicuously, did not indict him for lying. The FBI's notes on the interview, released to the public only this past August, show that Mifsud denied having any advance knowledge of Russian hacking and that FBI agents did not press him. There is little evidence that the FBI aggressively investigated him.

Possible revelations to come: Any proof that Mifsud worked as a Russian agent. And given his central role, why didn’t the FBI grill him about his sources, methods and contacts during their brief interview? What instructions, if any, were given to the agents who spoke with him? And by whom? And what other efforts, if any, were made to surveil him?

Mifsud has gone into hiding since early 2018, reportedly in Italy. There have been reports that Mifsud has provided an audio deposition to the Durham inquiry, and that Attorney General William Barr even personally obtained his cell phones during a September 2019 trip to Rome. But all of the rumors and speculation only underscore the lack of concrete information about such a pivotal figure in the Trump-Russia saga.

CIA Director Gina Haspel and former CIA Director John Brennan at the 2018 Capitol memorial for former President George H.W. Bush. Will she shed light on Brennan's Russian "mole"? What About John Brennan’s Kremlin Mole?

What we were told: A highly placed Kremlin mole was the main source of the core claim in CIA Director John Brennan’s hastily produced 2017 "Intelligence Community Assessment" (ICA) that Russian President Vladimir Putin intervened in the 2016 election to help defeat Clinton and support Trump.

What we have learned: The ICA’s claim was widely portrayed as the consensus view of US spy agencies, but in reality it was the conclusion drawn by a small group of CIA analysts, closely managed by-then Director Brennan. Paul Sperry of RealClearInvestigations revealed that Brennan personally overruled two senior analysts who disagreed with it.

Current CIA Director Gina Haspel is said to be resisting any effort to shed light on the assessment or the mole, claiming that it would threaten sources and methods. Yet multiple outlets have already outed the mole, Oleg Smolenkov, and the circumstances of his exit from Russia in June 2017. What’s more, this supposed betrayer of the Kremlin's secrets was found to be living under his own name in a Virginia suburb.

According to the New York Times, Smolenkov's extraction from Russia was spurred by a series of leaks. The first leaks began in late 2016, when "the news media picked up on details about the C.I.A.’s Kremlin sources." This disclosure led CIA officials to become concerned about Smolenkov's safety, and to offer to remove him from Russia. When he refused, intelligence officials developed "doubts" about "the informant’s trustworthiness." In June 2017, another leak appeared in the Washington Post, which reported that the CIA had learned about Putin's supposed interference campaign "from sourcing deep inside the Russian government" – a Kremlin mole. According to the Times, it was only after this mid-2017 "news reporting" that Smolenkov finally agreed to flee.

Possible revelations to come: More information on Smolenkov – specifically what did he relay to the CIA about Putin’s intentions? Were his reports based on firsthand accounts and documents, or hearsay? What, if anything, did the CIA do to confirm his information? This would allow the American public to decide for itself if his explosive assertions were reliable. Although it is usually paramount to preserve the identity of informants, U.S. intelligence leaks have already done so much to help expose him and, in the process, raise doubts about his credibility. It is thus unclear what sensitive information, if any, there is left to protect.

Establishing the credibility or lack thereof of Smolenkov's supposed intelligence is crucial because the sourcing of another foundational source of the Russiagate hoax, the Steele dossier, has already been discredited.

Robert Mueller: The Steele dossier was "outside my purview," he testified in 2019. Really? Did Mueller Rely on Steele More Than He Let On?

What we were told: After the FBI's collusion probe got underway in July 2016, it did not rely on the Steele dossier, a series of opposition research memos prepared by former a British intelligence officer Christopher Steele for investigative leads and even source material. In his testimony to Congress in July 2019, Special Counsel Robert Mueller claimed that the dossier was "outside my purview."

Christopher Steele: Agents assured him that his team's "information would be going straight to Mueller."

What we learned: The FBI extensively relied on the Steele dossier, most egregiously to obtain a surveillance warrant on Trump campaign volunteer Carter Page. In this warrant, the FBI listed Steele as "Source #1" and described him as "credible." The FBI also concealed that the Steele dossier was funded by the Clinton campaign. For its final two renewals, the FBI also hid that Steele's so-called "Primary Subsource," Igor Danchenko, had personally informed the FBI in January 2017 that "corroboration" for the Steele dossier's claims was "zero."

According to the December 2019 report from DOJ Inspector General Michael Horowitz, the FBI was so eager to enlist Steele for further intelligence gathering that it offered to pay him $15,000 "just for attending" an October 2016 meeting in Rome. Remarkably, the FBI did not just rely on Steele's "intelligence," but even shared its own classified information with Steele, including, Horowitz found, that it was eyeing Papadopoulos.

Possible revelations to come: More evidence, suggested in recently declassified documents, that the Steele material played a bigger role in the Mueller investigation than previously known. Notes from an FBI meeting with Steele in October 2017 show that agents assured him that his team's "information would be going straight to Mueller" and that only "only a small group of people knew" of the ongoing FBI-Steele contacts, "including Mueller." An FBI 302 interview form also shows that Mueller team members asked former Trump campaign manager Paul Manafort about the Steele dossier claims relating to him.

These disclosures are directly at odds with Mueller's July 2019 claim that the Steele dossier was "outside my purview." Further declassification could shed additional light on whether Mueller's disavowal of Steele aligns with the conduct of his investigators.

The FBI's disclosure of classified information to Steele is reportedly now a focus of Durham's criminal inquiry into how intelligence officials handled the Trump-Russia probe.

Are the claims of CrowdStrike (Democratic Party contractor) on solid ground? What’s the Evidence for the Russian Hacking Allegation?

What we were told: In June 2016, CrowdStrike, a private company, first accused Russian government hackers of infiltrating the Democratic National Committee's servers. This assessment was presented as direct evidence of Russian interference in the presidential election and was later endorsed by the FBI and Mueller’s team.

Shawn Henry: Direct evidence of a Russian hack of the DNC? No, the CrowdStrike CEO testified.

What we learned: Just as with Steele and his "sub-source," CrowdStrike's highly consequential allegation has been contradicted by subsequent disclosures years after the fact. Like Steele, CrowdStrike was a Democratic Party contractor whose version of events dovetailed with the Clinton’s campaign’s apparent desire to muddy Trump with Russia connections. While the DNC allowed CrowdStrike to perform a forensic analysis of its servers, it refused to allow the FBI to examine them directly, providing only copies. In another stunning admission, U.S. prosecutors told a court in June 2019 that CrowdStrike had submitted its reports to the government in draft, redacted form. Last May, the House Intelligence Committee released a transcript of 2017 testimony given by CrowdStrike CEO Shawn Henry, who said the firm "did not have concrete evidence" that Russian hackers removed any data, including private emails from the DNC servers. "There's circumstantial evidence, but no evidence that they were actually exfiltrated," Henry said.

Possible revelations to come: The draft Crowdstrike reports that detailed the basis for its hacking attribution to Russia would indicate whether the FBI and Mueller’s team were on solid ground in asserting Russia hacked the DNC and stole its emails.

In addition, documents relating to the FBI and Mueller team’s analysis of the CrowdStrike reports and other evidence suggesting Russian hacking could shed light on recent reveleations that law enforcement may have spread unconfirmed or dubious information about the hack. In his book about the Russia probe, “True Crimes and Misdemeanors,” which relies on the recollection of several members of Mueller's team, Jeffrey Toobin reports that in January 2017, the FBI was still "trying to determine who, precisely, was behind the hacking of the DNC and Podesta emails."

At the same time, the bureau was proclaiming that a Russian intelligence agency, the GRU, was behind the attack.

Toobin adds another clue that US intelligence officials had less proof than they let on. The evidence for the DNC email hack, Toobin writes, "came into the special counsel’s office as a great, undifferentiated mass of material." Toobin reports that the evidence was contained in "[t]exts and emails (many of them in Russian) as well as technical data" that "challenged the understanding of even the most assiduous student." Yet if it was that messy and complex, how could the CIA have turned it into a finalized intelligence product – the January 2017 ICA – that accused Russia with confident certainty?

Moreover, although technical data would be a likely source of evidence, how plausible is it that proof of Russian hacking guilt was contained in "texts and emails"? If the Russian hacking operation was an elaborate feat of espionage, as it has been widely portrayed, it would seem unlikely that operatives would be documenting it in text messages and email chains. If the government possesses such smoking-gun communications Trump should order their release.

Finally, John Demers, the head of the Justice Department's National Security Division, which oversees the GRU hacking case, has openly acknowledged that it is based on non-classified evidence. "That really happened," Demers told CBS News in November 2019. "And we believe that if we had to we could prove that in court tomorrow using only admissible, non-classified evidence to 12 jurors."

Given the importance of the hacking allegation, and if its evidence is non-classified, why shouldn’t Trump direct the U.S. intelligence community to release all of it?

Was Guccifer 2.0 Really With Russian Intelligence?

What we were told: The January 2017 ICA assessed "with high confidence" that the GRU "used the Guccifer 2.0 persona" to release the stolen DNC files. In its July 2018 indictment of GRU officers, the Mueller team also strongly suggested that Guccifer transferred the stolen DNC emails to WikiLeaks.

What we learned: The special counsel's final report, issued in March 2019, quietly acknowledged that it "cannot rule out that stolen documents were transferred to WikiLeaks through intermediaries" – an admission that it has no hard evidence that Guccifer 2.0 was WikiLeaks' source. It does not identify who those intermediaries might have been. Also missing from Mueller's account is the evidence used to identify Guccifer 2.0 as a Russian intelligence front. Furthermore, while WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange announced that he had "emails related to Hillary Clinton which are pending publication" on June 12, 2016, Mueller reports that Guccifer 2.0's "first contact" with WikiLeaks did not occur until June 22. Thus, Mueller's timeline asserts that Assange announced his possession of the emails before he even communicated with the Russian intelligence cutout that supposedly provided them. And while Assange did communicate with Guccifer 2.0, WikiLeaks has denied that any of the material he received from him was ultimately included in the organization's DNC email releases.

Recently unredacted sections of the Mueller report – released to the public on the eve of the November election – underscore the special counsel's failure to draw a direct tie between WikiLeaks and Russian intelligence.

"With respect to WikiLeaks and Assange,” the report stated, “this Office determined the admissible evidence to be insufficient … ." The unredacted text attributes this failure at least partly to a "lack of visibility" into "communications between the GRU officers and WikiLeaks-affiliated actors," many of which supposedly "occurred via encrypted chats."

Possible revelations to come: Mueller’s cryptic reference to “admissible evidence” suggests that his office is in possession of inadmissible evidence that ties the GRU to the WikiLeaks and the DNC emails. Given the pivotal role of Guccifer 2.0 in the Russian hacking narrative, the office should publish what it has to clarify things. This would include evidence of Guccifer 2.0’s identity. In addition, the CIA could release all documents that informed the now-suspect ICA declaration from January 2017 that the GRU was behind the DNC hack. If no one can prove today that the GRU stole the DNC emails and delivered them to WikiLeaks, why were Brennan and others so certain four years ago.

Other Loose Ends

Further declassifications could confirm or undermine the prominent collusion claims of former U.S. intelligence officials.

With respect to Mifsud, former FBI Director James Comey went so far as to declare in the Washington Post, without evidence, that he was a "Russian agent."

In July, both Robert Mueller and top deputy Andrew Weissmann wrote opinion pieces that disingenuously fueled the long-running conspiracy theory that Roger Stone coordinated with WikiLeaks on the release of stolen DNC emails. Stone, Mueller wrote for the Washington Post, "lied about the identity of his intermediary to WikiLeaks." Writing in the New York Times that same week, Weismann went further, advocating that Stone be brought "before a grand jury" in order "to get to the bottom of what [he] knows but has refused to disclose." Yet four months later, on the eve of the November election, a court-ordered un-redaction of additional pages of the Mueller report undermined Mueller and Weissmann's innuendo. The Mueller team, the un-redacted report states, found "insufficient evidence… to establish beyond a reasonable doubt that Roger Stone or any other persons associated with the Campaign coordinated with WikiLeaks on the release of the emails."

In an appearance on CNN in November, former FBI deputy director Andrew McCabe claimed that Trump himself could be exposed by damning information that has yet to come to light. "There is some very, very serious, very specific undeniable intelligence that has not come out that, if it were released, would risk compromising our access to that sort of information in the future," McCabe said. "I think it would also risk casting the president in a very negative light… It’s almost incomprehensible to me that he would want that information out. I don’t see how he spins it to his advantage because, quite frankly, I don’t believe it’s flattering." Given how devastating the disclosure of classified information has been to the collusion narrative and the intelligence officials who pursued it, McCabe's warning could well be yet one more bluff. And it’s certainly within Trump's rights to use his declassification powers and call him on it.

These public comments from former intelligence officials, with their false insinuations about a Trump-Russia connection, follow a longstanding pattern. In the early months of Trump's presidency, anonymously sourced stories fueled collusion innuendo, helped oust Michael Flynn on false pretenses, and built momentum for Mueller's appointment as special counsel. Key among them was a February 2017 report in the New York Times asserting that U.S. investigators had obtained "phone records and intercepted calls" showing that members of Trump's campaign and other associates "had repeated contacts with senior Russian intelligence officials in the year before the election." Four months later, Comey testified that the story was "not true." In July 2020, declassified documents showed that the FBI knew that the story was fake. In his own notes, Peter Strzok called the Times story "misleading and inaccurate ... no evidence [of this]." Further declassification could shed additional light on what the FBI knew about these fabricated leaks, and whether they were properly investigated.

Although the Russia investigation remains a bitterly partisan issue, declassification is one area where there is an overlooked precedent of convergence. In the period following Trump's election in November 2016, none other than Clinton campaign chair John Podesta advocated that the U.S. government "declassify information around Russia’s roles in the election and to make this data available to the public."

Podesta hoped then that such a disclosure could help sway the Electoral College to install Clinton instead of Trump. Four years later, disclosing such information would have a far different purpose: giving the US public a fair understanding of an unprecedented and highly consequential investigation into a sitting president, as well as the conduct of the intelligence officials who it carried out.

Aaron Mate, still at it and better than ever

PostPosted: Thu Jan 14, 2021 8:09 pm
by JackRiddler
The Rise and Fall of the ‘Steele Dossier’
A case study in mass hysteria and media credulity.


By Aaron Maté

JANUARY 11, 2021
https://www.thenation.com/article/polit ... e-dossier/


Donald Trump’s journey into and out of the Oval Office was shaped by xenophobia, conspiracy theories—and xenophobic conspiracy theories. Trump launched his political career by spreading the “birther” lie about President Obama, and then became Obama’s improbable successor with an anti-immigrant, anti-Muslim presidential campaign. Upon losing the White House four years later, Trump, true to form, blamed his ouster on a vast election fraud conspiracy aided—according to flunkies Rudy Giuliani and Sydney Powell—by “communist money,” “Venezuelan” voting machines, as well as Chinese and Iranian hackers. The right-wing mob that attacked the Capitol to thwart the certification of Joe Biden’s victory last week was the apotheosis of Trump’s unhinged bigotry.

Trump’s deranged coda was fitting for another reason: During his time in office, Democratic Party operatives and their allies in the media challenged the legitimacy of Trump’s 2016 victory with a xenophobic conspiracy theory of their own. Russia, it was claimed, not only installed Trump in the White House, but did so as part of an elaborate plot with his campaign. While Russiagate did not incite the hatred, violence, and harm of Trump’s MAGA and “Stop the Steal” movement, it was not without its own dangerous consequences.

A “well-developed conspiracy of cooperation”
The first Manchurian Candidate rumblings about Trump surfaced in the summer of 2016. But the pivotal incident, which morphed into all-consuming Russia mania, came exactly four years ago this month, just days before Trump’s inauguration. On January 10, 2017, BuzzFeed News published the “Steele dossier,” the collection of DNC-funded reports alleging a high-level conspiracy between Trump and Moscow. The catalyst had come four days earlier, when then–FBI Director Jim Comey personally briefed Trump on the dossier’s existence. Their meeting was then promptly leaked to the media, giving BuzzFeed the news hook to publish the Steele material in full.

Despite its outlandish assertions and partisan provenance, Steele’s work product somehow became a road map for Democratic leaders, media outlets, and, most egregiously, intelligence officials carrying out the Russia investigation.

According to Steele, Trump and the Kremlin engaged in a “well-developed conspiracy of cooperation.” Russia had, Steele alleged, been “cultivating, supporting and assisting Trump for at least five years,” dating back to the time when Trump was merely the host of The Apprentice. Russia, Steele claimed, handed Trump “a regular flow of intelligence,” including on “political rivals.” The conspiracy supposedly escalated during the 2016 campaign, when then–Trump lawyer Michael Cohen slipped into Prague for “secret discussions with Kremlin representatives and associated operators/hackers.”

This purported plot was not just based on mutual nefarious interests but, worse, outright coercion. To keep their asset in line, Steele alleged, the Russians had videotaped Trump hiring and watching prostitutes “perform a ‘golden showers’ (urination) show,” in a Moscow Ritz-Carlton hotel room. This “kompromat” meant that the leader of the free world was not only a traitor but also a blackmail victim of his Kremlin handlers.

Steele’s Perfect Timing
If the Steele dossier’s far-fetched claims were not enough reason to dismiss it with ridicule, another obvious marker should have set off alarms. Reading the Steele dossier chronologically, a glaring pattern emerges: Steele has no advance knowledge of anything that later proved to be true, and, just as tellingly, many of his most explosive claims appear only after some approximate prediction has come out in public form.

Despite his supposed high-level sources inside the Kremlin, it was only after Wikileaks published the DNC e-mails in July 2016 that Steele first mentioned them. When Steele made the headline-consuming claim that “the TRUMP team had agreed to sideline Russian intervention in Ukraine as a campaign issue” in exchange for Russian help, he did so only after a meaningless Ukraine-related platform change at the RNC was reported (and mischaracterized) in The Washington Post. When Steele claimed that former Trump campaign adviser Carter Page was offered up to a 19 percent stake in the state-owned Russian oil company Rosneft if he could get Trump to lift Western sanctions, it was only after the media had reported Page’s visit to Moscow.

In short, far from having access to high-level intelligence, Steele and his “sources” only had access to news outlets and their own imaginations. It is for this reason that Russiagate’s key figures and incidents make no appearance in Steele’s dossier. Absent are George Papadapolous and Joseph Mifsud, whose conversations triggered the FBI’s collusion probe. Also MIA is the infamous Trump Tower meeting with Russian nationals about potential “dirt” on Hillary Clinton. The reason is obvious: These events did not get publicly reported until after Steele wrote his final, secret “intelligence report.”

“A Real-Life James Bond”
All of this was lost on the many credulous media outlets who served as de facto stenographers for Steele, his clients, and a series of unknown intelligence officials who, behind the safe mask of anonymity, assured the public of his credibility.

David Corn, the veteran Mother Jones reporter who broke the Steele story in October 2016, approvingly cited an official’s assurance that Steele “has been a credible source with a proven record of providing reliable, sensitive, and important information to the US government.” In addition to making the dossier publicly known, Corn, it later emerged, even personally provided the FBI with a copy.

“Former C.I.A. officials described [Steele] as an expert on Russia who is well respected in the spy world,” The New York Times wrote on the day of the dossier’s release in January 2017. Steele, the Times added, is “considered a competent and reliable operative with extensive experience in Russia.” Steele, an NBC News headline declared, “Is a Real-Life James Bond.”

As they vouched for Steele’s tradecraft, anonymous officials also fed media contacts a false picture that Steele’s dossier had been factually checked out. “US investigators corroborate some aspects of the Russia dossier,” a CNN headline proclaimed in February 2017, weeks after the dossier’s publication. The FBI is “continuing to chase down stuff from the dossier, and, at its core, a lot of it is bearing out,” an unidentified “intelligence official” told The New Yorker later that month.

MSNBC’s Rachel Maddow was an early and particularly fervent believer in Steele’s sleuthing powers. Days before Trump’s inauguration, Maddow speculated that Putin might use the pee tape to blackmail Trump into withdrawing US forces near Russia’s border. Weeks later, after no such withdrawal materialized, and no underlying Trump-Russia conspiracy had been unearthed, Maddow assured her audience that “all the supporting details” in Steele’s reports “are checking out, even the really outrageous ones. A lot of them are starting to bear out under scrutiny. It seems like a new one each passing day.”

Guardian reporter Luke Harding, who served as Steele’s unofficial media spokesperson, repackaged the former spy’s assertions for his best-selling book, Collusion. “One associate described him as sober, cautious, highly regarded, professional and conservative,” Harding wrote. “‘He’s not the sort of person who will pass on gossip. If he puts something in a report, he believes there is sufficient credibility in it.’”

Even the revelation, in October 2017, that Steele’s “intelligence” had been paid for by the Democratic National Committee and the Clinton campaign did nothing to stop the media adulation.

In a glowing March 2018 profile of “the ex-spy [who] tried to warn the world about Trump’s ties to Russia,” Jane Mayer of The New Yorker assured readers that “a number of Steele’s major claims have been backed up by subsequent disclosures.”

The media’s faith in Steele became so profound that even his most outlandish assertion was not just indulged but actively embraced. During the April 2018 rollout for the first of his two Trump-era books, former FBI director Jim Comey told ABC News that it’s “possible” that the pee tape exists. Comey’s innuendo was enough for New York magazine’s Jonathan Chait to declare himself a “Peeliever.” Urging his readers to join the club, Chait wrote, “I used to doubt that this episode really happened. I now believe it probably did.” Comey, New York Times columnist Michelle Goldberg declared, “has started a long overdue national conversation about whether the pee tape is real.”

This overdue national conversation received its warmest reception in news media boardrooms, where editors devoted precious journalistic resources to the Pee-Tape Pied Piper. Shortly before setting off the Steele saga with its publication of his dossier, BuzzFeed sent a reporter to Prague in a bid to verify it. After it faced a defamation lawsuit from Russians named in the document, BuzzFeed reportedly paid a private firm $4.1 million to verify portions of its contents.

Racing to find a window in which the pee tape could have occurred, Bloomberg News pored over flight logs, while The Daily Beast scrutinized Trump’s time in Moscow. Their efforts, if not dispositive, were apparently persuasive. “Trump’s Pee-Tape Alibi Is Falling Apart,” Vanity Fair proclaimed. “It is another piece of evidence for the Peelievers,” an increasingly confident Jonathan Chait declared.

According to Greg Miller of The Washington Post, colleagues at the newspaper “literally spent weeks and months trying to run down” material in the dossier, including Cohen’s alleged visit to Prague to pay off Russian hackers. “We sent reporters through every hotel in Prague, through all over the place, just to try to figure out if he was ever there, and came away empty.”

Other reporters claimed to have more success. In April 2018, McClatchy reported that Mueller’s team “has evidence” that Cohen visited Prague in 2016, just as Steele alleged. In December of the same year, McClatchy doubled down by reporting that Cohen’s cell phone sent signals that connected with phone towers in Prague. Cohen ultimately denied the claim under oath, and the Mueller report concurred by noting that Cohen “never traveled to Prague.” More than two years later, McClatchy has since added a tepid editor’s note, rather than a retraction.

In conjunction with the near-uniform journalistic credulity, top Democrats and former intelligence officials used their positions of authority and media stardom to burnish Steele’s public image. Representative Adam Schiff went so far as to read some of Steele’s claims into the Congressional Record. Schiff and his colleagues also invoked a standard of evidence that would not survive a court hearing but was widely embraced in the prolonged media campaign to promote Steele’s claim. Capturing prevailing Steele dossier epistemology, former director of the CIA John Brennan told Meet the Press, “Just because they were unverified does not mean they were not true.”

“Not a single revelation in the Steele dossier has been refuted,” Senator Dianne Feinstein likewise declared. Democratic Senator Mark Warner was more circumspect, explaining that none of the dossier’s allegations has been “proven nor, conversely, disproven.” Speaking to Maddow in May 2018, James Clapper shared his view “that more of it has been corroborated with ensuing developments and what we’ve learned.” Asked by Maddow if there is “anything in the dossier that has been disproven,” Clapper answered confidently—despite being out of office for more than a year, “No.”

“Source #1”
While the media and political promotion of the Steele dossier was contemptible, its embrace by the FBI is an even bigger scandal. Rather than dismiss Steele’s work as a political hit job, the FBI used it as source material.

The FBI’s interest in Steele’s dossier was extensive. The bureau maintained a lengthy spreadsheet to document its efforts to corroborate Steele’s fanciful claims. And when agents first sought the now-infamous surveillance warrant on Carter Page in October 2016, they took their cues right from Steele’s pages.

The FBI told the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court (FISC) that it “believes that [Russia’s] efforts are being coordinated with Page and perhaps other individuals associated with” the Trump campaign. Its source for this absurd “belief” was Steele, whom it described as “Source #1” and “credible.” In an act of circular reporting, the FBI also cited a Yahoo News article by journalist Michael Isikoff—who had also relied on Steele as a source. Although the FBI disclosed to the court that Steele was being paid to do opposition research, it did not disclose that Trump’s Democratic political opponents were footing the bill.

Remarkably, the FBI did not just rely on Steele’s information, but even shared its own information with him. At an October 2016 meeting in Rome, FBI officials disclosed to Steele highly sensitive and even classified material. A damning Justice Department investigation, overseen by Inspector General Michael Horowitz and released in December 2019, found that FBI agents gave Steele a “general overview” of Crossfire Hurricane, including its specific—and, at the time, secret—probes of Paul Manafort, Carter Page, and Michael Flynn. The Washington Post reported in February 2018 that Steele “would later tell associates” that he gleaned from the meeting that that the FBI “was particularly interested in” George Papadopoulos, the Trump campaign adviser who served as the predicate for the entire investigation. The Post noted that “Papadopoulos had not surfaced in Steele’s research”—unsurprisingly, because media outlets like the Post hadn’t written stories about him when Steele’s “research” was being invented.

According to the Horowitz report, the FBI was so eager to enlist Steele that it offered to pay him $15,000 “just for attending the October meeting” in Rome. It also pledged a “significantly” greater amount if he could collect information for the investigation.

This arrangement was canceled just a month later, after the FBI discovered that Steele was still speaking to the media. But that did not end the FBI’s reliance on him. The FBI continued to collect information from Steele via an intermediary, former DOJ official Bruce Ohr. Worse, it continued to cite the Steele dossier in subsequent applications to renew the surveillance of Carter Page, never informing the FISC about Steele’s conflicts of interest.

Even worse, the FBI continued to cite Steele even after establishing that his claims were baseless. According to the Horowitz report, Steele’s so-called “Primary Sub-source,” Igor Danchenko, personally informed the FBI in January 2017 that “corroboration” for the Steele dossier’s claims was “zero.”

When Danchenko’s identity was revealed this July, it was clear why he rated his own information so poorly. Rather than being inside Russia with access to Kremlin sources, Danchenko was in fact a DC-based Russian expat with better access to Capitol Hill. Danchenko had formerly worked at the Brookings Institution, a prominent Beltway think tank. According to an investigation by The Wall Street Journal, one of Danchenko’s key sources turned out to be another Russian expat, public-relations executive Olga Galkina. Based in Cyprus, Galkina was credited with coming up with the claim about Cohen in Prague. A dispute with her employer, a web services company, apparently inspired Steele’s claim that one of its properties, Webzilla, was implicated in the alleged Russian hacking of the DNC.

Even after learning all of this, the FBI went back to the FISC and obtained two more renewals of Foreign Intelligence Investigation Act authorizations to spy on Page. In its submissions, the FBI mentioned that it had spoken to Danchenko but left out the inconvenient discovery that his corroboration was “zero.”

The April 2019 release of the Mueller report, which found no Trump-Russia conspiracy, dealt a major blow to Steele’s credibility. It also put an end to the breathless media promotion of his fanciful claims. The release of the Horowitz report in December 2019 was even more damaging. The revelation that the FBI misled the FISC about Steele’s claims has triggered high-level calls for reform and a $75 million lawsuit from Carter Page. The Justice Department has also invalidated the final two Page warrants, citing “material misstatements” by the FBI.

While the Steele affair has triggered at least some government-level contrition and nominal reforms, the same cannot be said about the prominent media and political figures who promoted his ludicrous claims with equal credulity. A small number of corporate media voices, notably Erik Wemple of The Washington Post, have criticized the journalists who served as Steele’s stenographers. But Wemple’s columns are one of the few signs of accountability emanating from the media outlets who misled audiences into believing in the fictitious Trump-Russia plot.

Lessons From the Farce
If there is no honest self-reflection to be had from the elite figures who spread Steele’s inventions, perhaps there can still be some lessons drawn for those subjected to the farce. For many liberals, Russiagate offered a comforting explanation for Trump’s improbable, painful victory. If Steele’s spy thriller could be proven true, then the Trumpian nightmare would surely come to an end. This was not only a welcome belief for anyone opposed to Trump but almost a requirement: Day after day, anti-Trump audiences were flooded with constant innuendo about Trump’s treasonous behavior and the false hope that Mueller was a step closer to proving it. To question Steele’s claims and other tenets of Russiagate orthodoxy was, for a long period, an act of heresy to the “Resistance.”

Much like a riveting novel or television show, the Steele story also gave many liberals relief from the daily pain of having such a buffoonish, hateful figure in the Oval Office. But even with Trump now nearly gone, the conditions that gave rise to him, and the dangerous tendencies he represented, remain very present. As do the corporate apologists within the Democratic Party that created an opening for his rise. To ultimately defeat Trumpism, at least some of those who embraced him as a rebuff to the “swamp” will have to be reached.

One place to begin might be by recognizing in ourselves similar qualities to those we’ve deplored in our political opponents. As dismaying as it has been to see MAGA supporters latch on to Trump’s election fraud lies, even to the point of violently attacking the Capitol, perhaps we can develop some insight into their mindset when we consider our own malleability. Trump voters heard liberals incessantly claim that Russia had duped the country into electing their candidate—a Kremlin asset compromised by a salacious videotape, financial leverage, and other unknown kompromat. Even in response to the Trump-fueled assault on Congress, a number of liberal voices, including House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, immediately brought it back to Putin.

Steele himself personally believed that the aim of his work was to help undo the election. Fusion GPS, Steele told a London court in August 2018, was hired “to obtain information necessary” on “the potential impact of Russian involvement on the legal validity of the outcome of the 2016 U.S. Presidential election.” Based on this, Steele explained, the Clinton campaign “could consider steps they would be legally entitled to take to challenge the validity of the outcome of that election.”

Ultimately, Steele’s absurdities, and the overall Russiagate campaign that it fueled, did nothing to undermine Trump. If anything, Trump was handed the enduring gift of a conspiracy-crazed opposition—and, on the core collusion allegation that Steele fueled, his own ultimate exoneration. Just as dangerously, the widespread belief that Trump was a Russian puppet had major geopolitical implications: it helped stigmatize diplomacy with the world’s other top nuclear power, and incentivized liberal adherents to ignore the multiple, hawkish real-world Trump policies that escalated tensions with it. Far more Americans heard of Trump’s fictitious conspiracy with the Kremlin than they did, for example, of him undermining two crucial nuclear weapons treaties, the INF and New START, over Russian objections.

When we now see MAGA followers consumed by their own election conspiracy theories, it behooves us to remember that, while there is no equivalence to the “Stop the Steal” mob violence, many liberals were misled in their own way for Trump’s entire four years. Beyond our mutual proclivity for embracing comforting delusions, we might acknowledge that we share something else with Trump supporters: party elites, Democrats and Republicans alike, who have turned to deranged, xenophobic fantasies rather than taking responsibility for their own election failures. For both party leaderships and their allied media outlets, Russiagate and its “stop the steal” successor have been highly profitable. On top of the immediate financial rewards and ratings boost, both “scandals” offer an even deeper institutional payoff: They distract the public from systemic dysfunctions in favor of fantastical conspiracy theories.

If the Steele dossier has any lasting role in defeating what Trump represents, it would be to trigger some honest reflection about whose interests it served. And whose it hurt.





This one has lots of pictures...

He's very prolific!


It's Trump's Last Chance to Declassify These Secrets of the Russia Collusion Dud

By Aaron Maté, RealClearInvestigations
January 10, 2021
https://www.realclearinvestigations.com ... 26696.html

President Trump's last days in office offer a final opportunity to declassify critical information on the Russia investigation that engulfed his lone term.
Already voluminous public records – including investigative reports from Special Counsel Robert Mueller, Congress and the Justice Department’s inspector general – have established that Trump and his associates were targeted with a baseless Russian collusion allegation. The fraudulent claim originated with the Hillary Clinton campaign, was fueled by a torrent of false or deceptive intelligence leaks, and was improperly investigated by the FBI, potentially to the point of being criminal. Despite these disclosures, key questions remain about the origins and the spread of the conspiracy theory. And with a Biden administration set to take office and Democrats taking control of both chambers of Congress, there are no guarantees that the ongoing probe of Special Counsel John Durham will fill in the remaining gaps.

Both the CIA and FBI have been slow to produce much material that Trump reportedly wants declassified. They argue that disclosure would reveal sources and methods vital to national security. Such claims arouse skepticism because they have been used in the past to cover up malfeasance – as the public learned when deceptive FISA warrant applications used to spy on Trump campaign adviser Carter Page were finally released.

Before he leaves office on Jan. 20, Trump could use his declassification authority to help clear up some of the following critical issues of the Russiagate saga:

What Did the Feds Really Know About Joseph Mifsud?
What we were told: The FBI says it opened its Trump-Russia investigation on July 31, 2016 after learning of a potential offer of Russian assistance to junior Trump campaign volunteer George Papadopoulos. It later emerged that the offer came from a Maltese academic named Joseph Mifsud, whom US officials have suggested was acting as a Russian cutout.

What we learned: When the FBI document that opened the Crossfire Hurricane probe was finally disclosed by the DOJ Inspector General in December 2019, it turned out that the FBI’s tip was vague hearsay drawn from a London barroom chat. Australian diplomat Alexander Downer reported that Papadopoulos "suggested" that the Trump team had received "some of kind of suggestion from Russia" of possible help to the campaign "with the anonymous release of information." The FBI document acknowledged that the nature of this "suggestion" was "unclear," and that this possible Russian help could entail "material acquired publicly" – as opposed to hacked emails.



Alexander Downer: His vague hearsay from a London barroom chat supposedly touched off the FBI's Crossfire Hurricane probe.

AP Photo/Philippos Christou

After Mifsud was identified as the man Papadopoulos allegedly spoke with, Mueller’s team depicted him as having extensive and suspect contacts with Russia. This portrayal erased the fact that Mifsud's closest public ties had been to Western governments, politicians, and institutions, including the CIA, FBI and British intelligence services. Despite Mifsud’s central role in the investigation, the FBI conducted only one brief interview with him in the lobby of a Washington, DC, hotel in February 2017. The Mueller team later claimed that Mifsud gave false statements to FBI agents yet, conspicuously, did not indict him for lying. The FBI's notes on the interview, released to the public only this past August, show that Mifsud denied having any advance knowledge of Russian hacking and that FBI agents did not press him. There is little evidence that the FBI aggressively investigated him.

Possible revelations to come: Any proof that Mifsud worked as a Russian agent. And given his central role, why didn’t the FBI grill him about his sources, methods and contacts during their brief interview? What instructions, if any, were given to the agents who spoke with him? And by whom? And what other efforts, if any, were made to surveil him?

Mifsud has gone into hiding since early 2018, reportedly in Italy. There have been reports that Mifsud has provided an audio deposition to the Durham inquiry, and that Attorney General William Barr even personally obtained his cell phones during a September 2019 trip to Rome. But all of the rumors and speculation only underscore the lack of concrete information about such a pivotal figure in the Trump-Russia saga.



CIA Director Gina Haspel and former CIA Director John Brennan at the 2018 Capitol memorial for former President George H.W. Bush. Will she shed light on Brennan's Russian "mole"?

AP Photo/Manuel Balce Ceneta

What About John Brennan’s Kremlin Mole?
What we were told: A highly placed Kremlin mole was the main source of the core claim in CIA Director John Brennan’s hastily produced 2017 "Intelligence Community Assessment" (ICA) that Russian President Vladimir Putin intervened in the 2016 election to help defeat Clinton and support Trump.

What we have learned: The ICA’s claim was widely portrayed as the consensus view of US spy agencies, but in reality it was the conclusion drawn by a small group of CIA analysts, closely managed by-then Director Brennan. Paul Sperry of RealClearInvestigations revealed that Brennan personally overruled two senior analysts who disagreed with it.

Current CIA Director Gina Haspel is said to be resisting any effort to shed light on the assessment or the mole, claiming that it would threaten sources and methods. Yet multiple outlets have already outed the mole, Oleg Smolenkov, and the circumstances of his exit from Russia in June 2017. What’s more, this supposed betrayer of the Kremlin's secrets was found to be living under his own name in a Virginia suburb.

According to the New York Times, Smolenkov's extraction from Russia was spurred by a series of leaks. The first leaks began in late 2016, when "the news media picked up on details about the C.I.A.’s Kremlin sources." This disclosure led CIA officials to become concerned about Smolenkov's safety, and to offer to remove him from Russia. When he refused, intelligence officials developed "doubts" about "the informant’s trustworthiness." In June 2017, another leak appeared in the Washington Post, which reported that the CIA had learned about Putin's supposed interference campaign "from sourcing deep inside the Russian government" – a Kremlin mole. According to the Times, it was only after this mid-2017 "news reporting" that Smolenkov finally agreed to flee.

Possible revelations to come: More information on Smolenkov – specifically what did he relay to the CIA about Putin’s intentions? Were his reports based on firsthand accounts and documents, or hearsay? What, if anything, did the CIA do to confirm his information? This would allow the American public to decide for itself if his explosive assertions were reliable. Although it is usually paramount to preserve the identity of informants, U.S. intelligence leaks have already done so much to help expose him and, in the process, raise doubts about his credibility. It is thus unclear what sensitive information, if any, there is left to protect.

Establishing the credibility or lack thereof of Smolenkov's supposed intelligence is crucial because the sourcing of another foundational source of the Russiagate hoax, the Steele dossier, has already been discredited.



Robert Mueller: The Steele dossier was "outside my purview," he testified in 2019. Really?

AP Photo/Alex Brandon

Did Mueller Rely on Steele More Than He Let On?
What we were told: After the FBI's collusion probe got underway in July 2016, it did not rely on the Steele dossier, a series of opposition research memos prepared by former a British intelligence officer Christopher Steele for investigative leads and even source material. In his testimony to Congress in July 2019, Special Counsel Robert Mueller claimed that the dossier was "outside my purview."



Christopher Steele: Agents assured him that his team's "information would be going straight to Mueller."

(Aaron Chown/PA FILE via AP)

What we learned: The FBI extensively relied on the Steele dossier, most egregiously to obtain a surveillance warrant on Trump campaign volunteer Carter Page. In this warrant, the FBI listed Steele as "Source #1" and described him as "credible." The FBI also concealed that the Steele dossier was funded by the Clinton campaign. For its final two renewals, the FBI also hid that Steele's so-called "Primary Subsource," Igor Danchenko, had personally informed the FBI in January 2017 that "corroboration" for the Steele dossier's claims was "zero."

According to the December 2019 report from DOJ Inspector General Michael Horowitz, the FBI was so eager to enlist Steele for further intelligence gathering that it offered to pay him $15,000 "just for attending" an October 2016 meeting in Rome. Remarkably, the FBI did not just rely on Steele's "intelligence," but even shared its own classified information with Steele, including, Horowitz found, that it was eyeing Papadopoulos.

Possible revelations to come: More evidence, suggested in recently declassified documents, that the Steele material played a bigger role in the Mueller investigation than previously known. Notes from an FBI meeting with Steele in October 2017 show that agents assured him that his team's "information would be going straight to Mueller" and that only "only a small group of people knew" of the ongoing FBI-Steele contacts, "including Mueller." An FBI 302 interview form also shows that Mueller team members asked former Trump campaign manager Paul Manafort about the Steele dossier claims relating to him.

These disclosures are directly at odds with Mueller's July 2019 claim that the Steele dossier was "outside my purview." Further declassification could shed additional light on whether Mueller's disavowal of Steele aligns with the conduct of his investigators.

The FBI's disclosure of classified information to Steele is reportedly now a focus of Durham's criminal inquiry into how intelligence officials handled the Trump-Russia probe.



Are the claims of this Democratic Party contractor on solid ground?

What’s the Evidence for the Russian Hacking Allegation?
What we were told: In June 2016, CrowdStrike, a private company, first accused Russian government hackers of infiltrating the Democratic National Committee's servers. This assessment was presented as direct evidence of Russian interference in the presidential election and was later endorsed by the FBI and Mueller’s team.



Shawn Henry: Direct evidence of a Russian hack of the DNC? No, the CrowdStrike CEO testified.

What we learned: Just as with Steele and his "sub-source," CrowdStrike's highly consequential allegation has been contradicted by subsequent disclosures years after the fact. Like Steele, CrowdStrike was a Democratic Party contractor whose version of events dovetailed with the Clinton’s campaign’s apparent desire to muddy Trump with Russia connections. While the DNC allowed CrowdStrike to perform a forensic analysis of its servers, it refused to allow the FBI to examine them directly, providing only copies. In another stunning admission, U.S. prosecutors told a court in June 2019 that CrowdStrike had submitted its reports to the government in draft, redacted form. Last May, the House Intelligence Committee released a transcript of 2017 testimony given by CrowdStrike CEO Shawn Henry, who said the firm "did not have concrete evidence" that Russian hackers removed any data, including private emails from the DNC servers. "There's circumstantial evidence, but no evidence that they were actually exfiltrated," Henry said.

Possible revelations to come: The draft Crowdstrike reports that detailed the basis for its hacking attribution to Russia would indicate whether the FBI and Mueller’s team were on solid ground in asserting Russia hacked the DNC and stole its emails.

In addition, documents relating to the FBI and Mueller team’s analysis of the CrowdStrike reports and other evidence suggesting Russian hacking could shed light on recent reveleations that law enforcement may have spread unconfirmed or dubious information about the hack. In his book about the Russia probe, “True Crimes and Misdemeanors,” which relies on the recollection of several members of Mueller's team, Jeffrey Toobin reports that in January 2017, the FBI was still "trying to determine who, precisely, was behind the hacking of the DNC and Podesta emails."

At the same time, the bureau was proclaiming that a Russian intelligence agency, the GRU, was behind the attack.

Toobin adds another clue that US intelligence officials had less proof than they let on. The evidence for the DNC email hack, Toobin writes, "came into the special counsel’s office as a great, undifferentiated mass of material." Toobin reports that the evidence was contained in "[t]exts and emails (many of them in Russian) as well as technical data" that "challenged the understanding of even the most assiduous student." Yet if it was that messy and complex, how could the CIA have turned it into a finalized intelligence product – the January 2017 ICA – that accused Russia with confident certainty?

Moreover, although technical data would be a likely source of evidence, how plausible is it that proof of Russian hacking guilt was contained in "texts and emails"? If the Russian hacking operation was an elaborate feat of espionage, as it has been widely portrayed, it would seem unlikely that operatives would be documenting it in text messages and email chains. If the government possesses such smoking-gun communications Trump should order their release.

Finally, John Demers, the head of the Justice Department's National Security Division, which oversees the GRU hacking case, has openly acknowledged that it is based on non-classified evidence. "That really happened," Demers told CBS News in November 2019. "And we believe that if we had to we could prove that in court tomorrow using only admissible, non-classified evidence to 12 jurors."

Given the importance of the hacking allegation, and if its evidence is non-classified, why shouldn’t Trump direct the U.S. intelligence community to release all of it?



Logo of Russian intelligence: Where's evidence of a direct tie between WikiLeaks and the GRU?

Was Guccifer 2.0 Really With Russian Intelligence?
What we were told: The January 2017 ICA assessed "with high confidence" that the GRU "used the Guccifer 2.0 persona" to release the stolen DNC files. In its July 2018 indictment of GRU officers, the Mueller team also strongly suggested that Guccifer transferred the stolen DNC emails to WikiLeaks.

What we learned: The special counsel's final report, issued in March 2019, quietly acknowledged that it "cannot rule out that stolen documents were transferred to WikiLeaks through intermediaries" – an admission that it has no hard evidence that Guccifer 2.0 was WikiLeaks' source. It does not identify who those intermediaries might have been. Also missing from Mueller's account is the evidence used to identify Guccifer 2.0 as a Russian intelligence front. Furthermore, while WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange announced that he had "emails related to Hillary Clinton which are pending publication" on June 12, 2016, Mueller reports that Guccifer 2.0's "first contact" with WikiLeaks did not occur until June 22. Thus, Mueller's timeline asserts that Assange announced his possession of the emails before he even communicated with the Russian intelligence cutout that supposedly provided them. And while Assange did communicate with Guccifer 2.0, WikiLeaks has denied that any of the material he received from him was ultimately included in the organization's DNC email releases.

Recently unredacted sections of the Mueller report – released to the public on the eve of the November election – underscore the special counsel's failure to draw a direct tie between WikiLeaks and Russian intelligence.

"With respect to WikiLeaks and Assange,” the report stated, “this Office determined the admissible evidence to be insufficient … ." The unredacted text attributes this failure at least partly to a "lack of visibility" into "communications between the GRU officers and WikiLeaks-affiliated actors," many of which supposedly "occurred via encrypted chats."

Possible revelations to come: Mueller’s cryptic reference to “admissible evidence” suggests that his office is in possession of inadmissible evidence that ties the GRU to the WikiLeaks and the DNC emails. Given the pivotal role of Guccifer 2.0 in the Russian hacking narrative, the office should publish what it has to clarify things. This would include evidence of Guccifer 2.0’s identity. In addition, the CIA could release all documents that informed the now-suspect ICA declaration from January 2017 that the GRU was behind the DNC hack. If no one can prove today that the GRU stole the DNC emails and delivered them to WikiLeaks, why were Brennan and others so certain four years ago.

Other Loose Ends
Further declassifications could confirm or undermine the prominent collusion claims of former U.S. intelligence officials.



Roger Stone: "Insufficient evidence" of coordination with WikiLeaks, despite what Mueller and Weissmann insinuated.

FNC

With respect to Mifsud, former FBI Director James Comey went so far as to declare in the Washington Post, without evidence, that he was a "Russian agent."
In July, both Robert Mueller and top deputy Andrew Weissmann wrote opinion pieces that disingenuously fueled the long-running conspiracy theory that Roger Stone coordinated with WikiLeaks on the release of stolen DNC emails. Stone, Mueller wrote for the Washington Post, "lied about the identity of his intermediary to WikiLeaks." Writing in the New York Times that same week, Weismann went further, advocating that Stone be brought "before a grand jury" in order "to get to the bottom of what [he] knows but has refused to disclose." Yet four months later, on the eve of the November election, a court-ordered un-redaction of additional pages of the Mueller report undermined Mueller and Weissmann's innuendo. The Mueller team, the un-redacted report states, found "insufficient evidence… to establish beyond a reasonable doubt that Roger Stone or any other persons associated with the Campaign coordinated with WikiLeaks on the release of the emails."


Andrew McCabe: Trump could call his bluff on his suggestion of undisclosed material "casting the president in a very negative light."

RCP

In an appearance on CNN in November, former FBI deputy director Andrew McCabe claimed that Trump himself could be exposed by damning information that has yet to come to light. "There is some very, very serious, very specific undeniable intelligence that has not come out that, if it were released, would risk compromising our access to that sort of information in the future," McCabe said. "I think it would also risk casting the president in a very negative light… It’s almost incomprehensible to me that he would want that information out. I don’t see how he spins it to his advantage because, quite frankly, I don’t believe it’s flattering." Given how devastating the disclosure of classified information has been to the collusion narrative and the intelligence officials who pursued it, McCabe's warning could well be yet one more bluff. And it’s certainly within Trump's rights to use his declassification powers and call him on it.


James Comey: His statements and other material raise questions of what the FBI knew about fabricated leaks and whether they were properly investigated.

AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite, File

These public comments from former intelligence officials, with their false insinuations about a Trump-Russia connection, follow a longstanding pattern. In the early months of Trump's presidency, anonymously sourced stories fueled collusion innuendo, helped oust Michael Flynn on false pretenses, and built momentum for Mueller's appointment as special counsel. Key among them was a February 2017 report in the New York Times asserting that U.S. investigators had obtained "phone records and intercepted calls" showing that members of Trump's campaign and other associates "had repeated contacts with senior Russian intelligence officials in the year before the election." Four months later, Comey testified that the story was "not true." In July 2020, declassified documents showed that the FBI knew that the story was fake. In his own notes, Peter Strzok called the Times story "misleading and inaccurate ... no evidence [of this]." Further declassification could shed additional light on what the FBI knew about these fabricated leaks, and whether they were properly investigated.
Although the Russia investigation remains a bitterly partisan issue, declassification is one area where there is an overlooked precedent of convergence. In the period following Trump's election in November 2016, none other than Clinton campaign chair John Podesta advocated that the U.S. government "declassify information around Russia’s roles in the election and to make this data available to the public."

Podesta hoped then that such a disclosure could help sway the Electoral College to install Clinton instead of Trump. Four years later, disclosing such information would have a far different purpose: giving the US public a fair understanding of an unprecedented and highly consequential investigation into a sitting president, as well as the conduct of the intelligence officials who it carried out.