The UNVERIFIED Russia Dossier

I posted already about the claims circulated that Russia has damaging information on Trump. Although the exact claims are not verified, the intelligence community has been taking it seriously, so we aren’t going to ignore it.

Mother Jones reported on the claims back in October.

“A Veteran Spy Has Given the FBI Information Alleging a Russian Operation to Cultivate Donald Trump” [MJ]

This article goes on to mention the ex-spy we now know is Christopher Steele.

a former senior intelligence officer for a Western country who specialized in Russian counterintelligence tells Mother Jones that in recent months he provided the bureau with memos, based on his recent interactions with Russian sources, contending the Russian government has for years tried to co-opt and assist Trump—and that the FBI requested more information from him.

[…]

“It started off as a fairly general inquiry,” says the former spook, who asks not to be identified. But when he dug into Trump, he notes, he came across troubling information indicating connections between Trump and the Russian government. According to his sources, he says, “there was an established exchange of information between the Trump campaign and the Kremlin of mutual benefit.”

This was, the former spy remarks, “an extraordinary situation.” He regularly consults with US government agencies on Russian matters, and near the start of July on his own initiative—without the permission of the US company that hired him—he sent a report he had written for that firm to a contact at the FBI, according to the former intelligence officer and his American associates, who asked not to be identified. (He declines to identify the FBI contact.) The former spy says he concluded that the information he had collected on Trump was “sufficiently serious” to share with the FBI.

[MJ]

Some claims from the dossier,

“Russian regime has been cultivating, supporting and assisting TRUMP for at least 5 years. Aim, endorsed by PUTIN, has been to encourage splits and divisions in western alliance.” It maintained that Trump “and his inner circle have accepted a regular flow of intelligence from the Kremlin, including on his Democratic and other political rivals.” It claimed that Russian intelligence had “compromised” Trump during his visits to Moscow and could “blackmail him.” It also reported that Russian intelligence had compiled a dossier on Hillary Clinton based on “bugged conversations she had on various visits to Russia and intercepted phone calls.” [MJ]

From a new Mother Jones article with more information from interviews with Steele,

“This was something of huge significance, way above party politics,” the former spy told me. “I think [Trump’s] own party should be aware of this stuff as well.” He noted that he believed Russian intelligence’s efforts aimed at Trump were part of Vladimir Putin’s campaign to “disrupt and divide and discredit the system in Western democracies.” [MJ2]

New Russia Info

Last week was a doozy. It came out that intelligence officials are taking seriously the claim that Russia has information on Trump that could be used to blackmail him. CNN broke the news and shared that both Obama and Trump had been briefed on the information.

Classified documents presented last week to President Obama and President-elect Trump included allegations that Russian operatives claim to have compromising personal and financial information about Mr. Trump, multiple US officials with direct knowledge of the briefings tell CNN. [CNN]

The information came in the form of a dossier, a series of documents, reportedly attributed to ex-spy from the UK, Christopher Steele. Who has, as of late, gone into hiding.

Mr Steele, who runs a London-based intelligence firm, was reportedly hired by anti-Trump Republicans to investigate Mr Trump’s ties to Russia during the battle for the party’s presidential nomination. In the general election campaign the research was funded by an anonymous Democratic donor. [BBC]

The dossier had been circulating around Washington and the news media since before the election, but they were not released because they were yet unverified. CNN finally reported on them, without releasing the dossier or describing any specific claims, because they learned that the information was deemed credible enough to for the president and president-elect to be briefed on it.

US intelligence agencies have now checked out the former British intelligence operative and his vast network throughout Europe and find him and his sources to be credible enough to include some of the information in the presentations to the President and President-elect a few days ago. [CNN]

It turns out that Sen. John McCain was made aware of these memos as well.

on December 9, Senator John McCain gave a full copy of the memos — dated from June through December, 2016 — to FBI Director James Comey. McCain became aware of the memos from a former British diplomat who had been posted in Moscow. But the FBI had already been given a set of the memos compiled up to August 2016, when the former MI6 agent presented them to an FBI official in Rome, according to national security officials. [CNN]

Here is the Buzzfeed article containing the unconfirmed dossier.

More on what we know about Trump and Russia.

I intend to follow this post with information from the reports but because the claims are unverified I will not include them here. This post is only what is known, verified, and widely reported. [Follow up]

Russia Hack Info

In previous posts I have talked about the news that Russia actively worked to undermine our electoral process and get Donald Trump elected. Here are some things to know about the situation.

  • The assessment is based on intelligence suggesting that the Kremlin’s hacking efforts were disproportionately aimed at the Democratic Party.
  • Previously, the U.S. intelligence community only said Moscow’s goals were limited to disrupting the election, undermining faith the U.S. electoral system.
  • On Friday, the FBI backed the CIA’s assessment. Previously, the two agencies had differing opinions that some say can be attributed to their culture: The bureau seeks tangible evidence to prove something beyond all reasonable doubt, while the CIA is more comfortable drawing inferences from behavior.
  • In an interview with NPR, President Obama said the United States will retaliate against Russia over its election hacking.
  • President-elect Donald Trump has called the CIA’s findings “ridiculous” and said he doesn’t believe it. “I think it’s just another excuse. I don’t believe it. . . . No, I don’t believe it at all,” Trump said on “Fox News Sunday” of the CIA assessment.
  • Russia has called the allegations “absolute nonsense.” In a TV interview, Russian President Vladimir Putin’s spokesman denied that the Kremlin interfered with the U.S. election and said that Moscow is looking forward to a new relationship with the Trump administration.
  • Officials say they think that, in addition to helping Trump, the Kremlin had a mix of goals, including undermining Americans’ confidence in the electoral system.
  • The CIA has briefed the administration that it thinks the Russians “breached” the Republican National Committee’s computer systems. Officials are less certain whether the hackers were able to extract information. The RNC denies it was hacked.
  • Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) said Monday that a Senate intelligence panel plans to investigate Russia’s suspected election interference.
  • The Obama administration has ordered a “full review” of the Russian hacking during the campaign. The investigation is headed by Director of National Intelligence James R. Clapper Jr. The administration promises to make the report public.

[Source]

The FBI failed us on Russia

The former acting director of the CIA has called the Russian cyberattack “the political equivalent of 9/11.”

[…]

I was surprised to read in the New York Times that when the FBI discovered the Russian attack in September 2015, it failed to send even a single agent to warn senior Democratic National Committee officials. Instead, messages were left with the DNC IT “help desk.” As a former head of the FBI cyber division told the Times, this is a baffling decision[…]

What takes this from baffling to downright infuriating is that at nearly the exact same time that no one at the FBI could be bothered to drive 10 minutes to raise the alarm at DNC headquarters, two agents accompanied by attorneys from the Justice Department were in Denver visiting a tech firm that had helped maintain Clinton’s email server.

[…]

Comparing the FBI’s massive response to the overblown email scandal with the seemingly lackadaisical response to the very real Russian plot to subvert a national election shows that something is deeply broken at the FBI.

[…]

But the FBI’s role is particularly troubling because of its power and responsibility — and because this is part of a trend. The Justice Department’s Inspector General issued a damning report this summer about the FBI’s failure to prioritize cyberthreats more broadly.

[…]

Finally, Congress should more vigorously exercise its oversight to determine why the FBI responded overzealously in the Clinton case and insufficiently in the Russian case. The FBI should also clarify whether there is an ongoing investigation into Trump, his associates and their ties to Russia. If ever there were a case of “intense public interest,” this is it. What’s broken in the FBI must be fixed and quickly.

[John Podesta]

What the hack tells us

Beyond that we are ever so vulnerable to cyberattacks and hacking. See the quote below,

In assessing Donald Trump’s presidential victory, Americans continue to look away from this election’s most alarming story: the successful effort by a hostile foreign power to manipulate public opinion before the vote.

 

U.S. intelligence agencies have affirmed that the Russian government directed the illegal hacking of private email accounts of the Democratic National Committee and prominent individuals. The emails were then released by WikiLeaks, which has benefited financially from a Russian state propaganda arm, used Russian operatives for security and made clear an intent to harm the candidacy of Hillary Clinton.

Plenty of Americans obviously bought into the propaganda, even those on the left where people were quick to believe and hold onto the claim that the election was rigged against Bernie Sanders.

News stories on the DNC emails released in July served to disrupt the Democratic National Convention, instigate political infighting and suggest for some supporters of Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) — without any real proof — that the Democratic primary had been “rigged” against their candidate.

 

Russian (and former communist) propaganda has traditionally worked exactly this way: The more you “report” something negatively, the more the negative is true. Trump and supportive media outlets adopted the technique and reveled in information gained from the illegal Russian hacking (as well as many “fake news” stories that evidence suggests were generated by Russian intelligence operations) to make exaggerated claims (“Hillary wants to open borders to 600 million people!”) or to accuse Clinton of illegality, corruption and, ironically, treasonous behavior.

[…]

The email operation increased negative stories about Clinton, fueled an immense propaganda attack and diminished coverage of actual issues. The large polling lead Clinton gained after the debates slipped significantly under this barrage of negativity

[Source]

FBI & CIA agree on Russia

It seems that people were under the impression that the FBI did not agree with the CIA’s assessment on the Russian hacking of the election, but that is not the case. It was announced to day that both agencies are in agreement on the matter. Both the purpose and severity.

FBI Director James B. Comey and Director of National Intelligence James R. Clapper Jr. are in agreement with a CIA assessment that Russia intervened in the 2016 election in part to help Donald Trump win the presidency, according to U.S. officials. [Source]

I will be continuing to remind you that Russia picked our next president and got him elected because it is true and horrifying.