As I’ve been saying in previous blogs, I have been primarily concerned about Donald Trump’s threat to our national security. There is a reason that the majority of officials including republicans in the U.S. Intelligence field are strongly warning against him becoming our next U.S. President.
It is alarming to me to observe his pro-Putin stance and rhetoric while Russia has been hacking the DNC; Hillary Clinton’s Campaign manager, John Podesta’s emails; and the US State Department, in an attempt to cause mischief with the 2016 U.S. election season. Russia’s President Putin would be thrilled to woo Donald Trump, so that he would have an ally for weakening the powers of NATO.
The Russian connection is real. While the odds of Russia grooming DT for anything would make them absolutely nuts, they wouldn’t hesitate to use and play him like a violin. He is like the mouse crossing the river on the back of a fox. He wouldn’t last long. But the U.S. national security interests could be harmed in the process.
Kurt Eichenwald is sharing his research about Donald Trump’s ties to Russia on his 11/4/16 Newsweek report, “Why Vladimir Putin’s Russia Is Backing Donald Trump.”
Kurt Eichenwald who has been breaking outstanding Donald Trump news stories for Newsweek, is the author of three books that have been NY Times best sellers. Previously, he worked for 20 years at the Times as a investigative reporter, columnist and senior writer. He is a two-time winner of the George Polk Award for excellence in journalism and was a Pulitzer Prize finalist in 2000 and 2002. He has earned great reviews on his second non fiction book, The Informant which has been made into a major motion picture starring Matt Damon.
Here are excerpts from his article explaining Donald Trump’s ties to Russia:
“In phone calls, meetings and cables, America’s European allies have expressed alarm to one another about Donald Trump’s public statements denying Moscow’s role in cyber attacks designed to interfere with the U.S. election. They fear the Republican nominee for president has emboldened the Kremlin in its unprecedented cyber campaign to disrupt elections in multiple countries in hopes of weakening Western alliances, according to intelligence, law enforcement and other government officials in the United States and Europe.”
“While American intelligence officers have privately briefed Trump about Russia’s attempts to influence the U.S. election, he has publicly dismissed that information as unreliable, instead saying this hacking of incredible sophistication and technical complexity could have been done by some 400-pound “guy sitting on their bed” or even a child.”
“Officials,from two European countries tell Newsweek that Trump’s comments about Russia’s hacking have alarmed several NATO partners because it suggests he either does not believe the information he receives in intelligence briefings, does not pay attention to it, does not understand it or is misleading the American public for unknown reasons. One British official says members of that government who are aware of the scope of Russia’s cyberattacks both in Western Europe and America found Trump’s comments “quite disturbing” because they fear that, if elected, the Republican presidential nominee would continue to ignore information gathered by intelligence services in the formulation of U.S. foreign policy.”
“Trump’s behavior, however, has at times concerned the Russians, leading them to revise their hacking and disinformation strategy. For example, when Trump launched into an inexplicable attack on the parents of a Muslim-American soldier who died in combat, the Kremlin assumed the Republican nominee was showing himself psychologically unfit to be president and would be forced by his party to withdraw from the race. As a result, Moscow put its hacking campaign temporarily on hold, ending the distribution of documents until Trump stabilized, both personally and in the polls, according to reports provided to Western intelligence.”
“America’s European partners are also troubled by the actions of several people close to Trump’s campaign and company. Trump has been surrounded by advisers and associates with economic and familial links to Russia. The publicized connections and contacts between former campaign manager Paul Manafort with Ukraine have raised concerns. Former Trump adviser Carter Page is being probed by American and European intelligence on allegations that he engaged in back-channel discussions with Russian government officials over the summer. Page did travel to Moscow, but he denies any inappropriate contact with Russian officials. The allies are also uneasy about retired Lieutenant General Michael Flynn, a Trump adviser who was reportedly considered a possible running mate for the GOP nominee. Last December, Flynn attended a dinner at the Metropol Hotel in honor of the 10th anniversary of RT, a Russian news agency that has been publicly identified by American intelligence as a primary outlet for Moscow’s disinformation campaigns. Flynn, who was two seats away from Russian President Vladimir Putin at the dinner, has frequently appeared on RT, despite public warnings by American intelligence that the news agency is used for Russian propaganda.”
“Western intelligence and law enforcement say tens of thousands of people have been working with Russia on its hacking and disinformation campaign for many years. They include propagandists and cyberoperatives stationed in Moscow, St. Petersburg and Novosibirsk, located in the southwestern part of Siberia. Operations have also been conducted in the United States, primarily out of New York City, Washington, D.C., and Miami. Those involved include a large number of Russian émigrés, as well as Americans and other foreign nationals. Intelligence operations in Europe and the U.S. have determined that the money these émigrés receive for their work is disguised as payments from a Russian pension system. One U.S. official says there is evidence many of these Americans and foreign nationals do not know they are part of Russia’s propaganda operation.”
“Here is how Moscow operates its campaigns: Hackers pilfer information from a variety of organizations both inside and outside Western governments; that is distributed to individuals who feed it into what a source told a European intelligence expert was a “pipeline.” This so-called pipeline can involve multiple steps before hacked information is disclosed through the media or online. For example, that source reported that documents in the United States intended to disrupt the American election are distributed through WikiLeaks. However, there are so many layers of individuals between the hackers and that organization there is a strong possibility that WikiLeaks does not know with certainty the ultimate source of these records; throughout 2016, the site has been posting emails from various Democratic Party organizations that were originally obtained through Russian hacking.”
“The Russian penetration in the United States is far more extensive than previously revealed publicly, although most of it has been targeted either at government departments or nongovernment organizations connected to the Democratic Party. Russian hackers penetrated the White House, the Joint Chiefs of Staff and the State Department. The State Department cyberattack, which began in 2014 and lasted more than a year, was particularly severe, with Russian hackers gaining entry into its unclassified system, including emails. (Hillary Clinton left the State Department in 2013, which means that if she had used its unclassified email system rather than her private server—a decision that has dogged her throughout the campaign—any of her emails on the government system could have been obtained by Russian hackers.)”
“The breadth of the cyberattacks of nongovernmental organizations is astonishing. Russian hackers have obtained emails and other information out of the Clinton campaign and the Democratic National Committee, but also have struck at organizations with looser ties to the party, including think tanks such as the Brookings Institution, where some of Clinton’s longtime friends and colleagues work.”
“Once the documents are obtained by hackers and then distributed, a large group of propagandists around the world begin promoting them on social media—in comments sections of websites and other locations online—hoping to generate negative news stories that undermine Democratic officials, particularly Clinton.”
“The Kremlin’s campaign is motivated not so much to support Trump as it is to hurt the Democratic nominee. During Clinton’s time as secretary of state, Putin publicly accused her of interfering in Moscow’s affairs. For example, her statement that Russian parliamentary elections in December 2011—which involved blatant cheating—were “neither free nor fair” infuriated Putin. He was also encouraged by the relentlessly positive comments about him by Trump, even after the Republican nominee began receiving criticism within his own party for sounding too supportive of the Kremlin, according to information obtained from within Russia by a Western intelligence source.”
“Both Trump and Clinton were monitored by Russian intelligence during their visits to Moscow over the years, according to American and European intelligence sources, in hopes of gathering kompromat—compromising material about a politician or public figure. The dossier on Clinton mainly contains recordings of conversations and intercepted phone calls; the intelligence source said the dossier has been controlled by Dmitry Peskov, the Kremlin spokesman. When she was secretary of state, however, Clinton knew her conversations in Moscow might be recorded, so the dossier appears to have been used mainly for intelligence rather than to embarrass her with allies, the source said. The Kremlin also has both video and audio recordings of Trump in a kompromat file. Newsweek could not confirm if there is anything compromising in those recordings.”
“This massive Russian campaign has led to significant disputes within the Kremlin. Russian officials originally believed it could be conducted without any significant blowback from the United States. According to information obtained by the Western intelligence source, Sergei Ivanov, the chief of staff for the presidential executive office in the Kremlin, came to believe this summer that the hacking and disinformation campaign, which has been orchestrated in part by Peskov, had gone too far. ”
“Ivanov was also furious that Peskov led what he considered to be an ill-conceived and botched attempt to use the hacking and disinformation campaign to interfere in the failed coup attempt in Turkey in July. The web of relationships involving Turkey, Western Europe, the United States, Syria and Trump is complex, and Ivanov expressed disbelief that an attempt to interfere with the coup was undertaken without examining the possible ramifications. The Incirlik air base in Turkey has been used as a primary staging area for American bombers engaged in attacks on the Islamic State group in both Syria and Iraq; Russia supports President Bashar al-Assad, the Syrian president who is fighting off a variety of rebel outfits, including ISIS, which has led the Kremlin to authorize bombing campaigns there. Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan despises Trump and his associates because of the Republican nominee’s anti-Muslim rhetoric (in March, one of Trump’s Turkish business partners was indicted in what some Erdogan critics described as retribution). Erdogan has told associates he will not cooperate militarily with a Trump administration, according to a Middle Eastern financier in direct contact with senior Turkish officials.”
“By interfering in the Turkish coup with propaganda efforts, one faction in the Kremlin believes Moscow might have squandered the advantages to be gained from Erdogan’s contempt for Trump, according to both European and Middle Eastern intelligence sources. If Erdogan is angry at the next American president, the ability of the United States to engage in military action in Syria would be severely limited. If Russian interference in the coup leads Erdogan to turn his fury on Moscow, the Americans might maintain access to the air base.”
“Dmitry Medvedev, the Russian prime minister, is also deeply concerned about the cyberattacks and disinformation campaigns, according to information obtained by a Western intelligence source. He wants to maintain a close relationship with the United States so he can travel to America both officially and privately. As a result, he is refusing to support Peskov or to strongly combat U.S. charges about the hacking campaign.”
“Despite these qualms, Putin remained satisfied with the campaign, regardless of the outcome of the U.S. election, according to information obtained by the Western intelligence source. Should Clinton win, he has told associates, her administration would be bogged down trying to heal divisions within the United States brought about by releases and misrepresentations of hacked information, and would have little time or political capital to confront Russia’s efforts in Syria, Ukraine and other locales.”
“By August, however, fears began to emerge within the Kremlin that the effort was falling apart. Trump’s attacks on the parents of a slain Muslim American soldier following the father’s speech at the Democratic convention created dismay in the Kremlin. Top Russian officials came to believe Trump would be forced to withdraw from the race because of his psychological state and apparent unsuitability for the presidency, according to information obtained by the Western intelligence source. In particular, Kremlin officials feared they could not predict what impact it might have on Russia should Trump step aside. As a result, the Russians decided to stop forwarding material through channels to WikiLeaks, although some material was already in the pipeline.”
Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovych’
“Ivanov expressed his belief that, while the United States has failed to split the Russian elite with sanctions over its invasion of Ukraine, the cyberattacks had created political division in the United States. Still, he had strong concerns about the impact of continuing the campaign in the aftermath of Trump’s attack on the parents who had lost a child in war. By that time, though, the internal controversy over the cyberattacks and disinformation campaign had taken its toll, and a decision was reached to “sweep it all under the rug,” according to a report obtained by Western counterintelligence officials. On August 12, Ivanov—a close ally of Putin for decades—was forced out of office by the Russian strongman and replaced by Anton Vaino, who had been the deputy chief of staff.”
“Two days later, The New York Times reported that Manafort, then Trump’s campaign manager, may have illegally received $12.7 million from Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovych’s Party of Regions; Manafort has denied any wrongdoing, and his lawyer, Richard Hibey, said his client never received any such payments. Manafort resigned from the Trump campaign not long after the article ran. According to information obtained from inside Russia by Western intelligence, 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.”
“On October 7, the Obama administration finally broke its silence on America’s knowledge about the Russian campaign. “These thefts and disclosures are intended to interfere with the U.S. election process,” Jeh Johnson, the secretary of homeland security, and James Clapper, the director of national intelligence, said in a statement. “We believe, based on the scope and sensitivity of these efforts, that only Russia’s senior-most officials could have authorized these activities.” The White House stated that Obama was considering a “proportional response”—a statement that suggested the United States would be launching cyberattacks against Russia. (Shortly afterward, Ukrainian hackers began posting emails and other documents obtained from inside the Kremlin, although it is not clear if this effort was done in coordination with the American government.)”
“Less than two weeks later—despite his intelligence briefings about the Russian hacking and disinformation campaign, despite the public statements by top American intelligence officials confirming its existence and despite the White House proclamation that it was preparing to respond to the unprecedented interference by Moscow—Trump once again dismissed all of the evidence and came to Russia’s defense.”