Connecting the Dots on Trump and Russia

I’ve discussed the “Russian Investigation” on several occasions with people on all sides of the issue. The one thing I’ve discovered when attempting to delve into the complexities is that very few people have actually read through the – mostly public – documents that address the heart of the matter.

I thought it might be useful to provide a brief, high-level summary of the three key documents, make a few connections between them, and leave you with a few critical questions to ask as the Mueller Investigation, the Congressional Inquiries, and other resulting actions unfold over what promises to be at least the next few months.

Here is where to find and download each of these critical documents:

1) The Steele Dossier (27 pp.)

2) Glenn Simpson Testimony to Senate Judiciary Committee (312 pp.)

3) Devin Nunes Memo (6 pp.)

These documents are inextricably intertwined, and I believe a working knowledge of each is essential to exploring the Trump Campaign’s interactions with Russia, and the possibility that there was or was not collusion and/or conspiracy with a foreign entity, along with potential related obstruction of justice infractions.

It’s a simple task to read The Steele Dossier and the Nunes Memo in their entirety. At 312 pages – a quick 312 – the Simpson Testimony is a different animal. I will try to summarize it for you by providing relevant takeaways so you don’t have to read the whole thing.

The Steele Dossier is a collection of research memos, each memo opening with an executive summary and then profiling detailed findings and sequences of events. Initially contracted by a Republican client of Fusion GPS (unnamed by Mr. Simpson in his Judiciary testimony, but often presumed to be the Ted Cruz Campaign), the Dossier’s funding was eventually subsumed by the DNC. Simpson’s testimony gave some insight into the document’s origins, but he did not name specific clients.

Simpson testified that such research is often contracted during the course of a critical election campaign, and his company Fusion GPS is one of the leaders in that field. It has produced intelligence for a wide range of clientele with subjects including: The Clintons, Barack Obama, and Donald Trump, among many others.

The Steele Dossier documents three sets of issues, each – if true – of tremendous concern to all Americans. 1) Candidate Trump had a long and documentable history of business ties with Russian politicians, oligarchs and known mobsters. 2) Russian spies gathered intelligence information (aka Kompromat) sufficient to blackmail the Republican Nominee, Trump, and 3) With input from Team Trump, the Kremlin had authorized a campaign of espionage and disinformation designed to damage the Clinton candidacy and, if possible, swing the election to Trump.

That Trump has questionable business associates, many of them Russian, is well known. The Dossier notes corrupt ties to Asia as well, and the Russian campaign was also intended to distract from Trump’s illicit activities in Asia. Kompromat on Trump features videotape recordings of his escapades at the Moscow Ritz-Carlton in a presidential suite once occupied by Barack and Michelle Obama. According to the memo, the Golden Showers story is real.

Steele adds that Russia also gathered kompromat on Hillary Clinton, mostly recordings of phone calls she made in Russia as far back as her stint as First Lady, though nothing as prurient or damning as the Trump videos.

Obtaining compromising material on Hillary Clinton was a Russian priority, because they, like most, assumed she would win the 2016 Presidential Election. Russia uses kompromat as a tool to keep their political rivals in check. The espionage campaign might have two potential benefits: 1) Keep the election as close as possible, thereby minimizing Hillary Clinton’s mandate, and 2) Potentially get Trump elected, though the prospects of that happening seemed highly unlikely all the way to Election Day.

Participation from Trump officials aided the espionage campaign. The Dossier calls out three high-ranking Trump operatives: Paul Manafort, Carter Page, and Trump lawyer Michael Cohen. Cohen became involved late in the campaign to cover up the trail of collusion. (He is suing Steele for implicating him in The Dossier).

The Dossier also discusses the breadth of the campaign on Trump’s behalf, including the hacking of sensitive e-mails and subsequent release through Wiki-Leaks. Intent was to turn Bernie Sanders supporters against Clinton, make embarrassing DNC information public, and otherwise undermine the Clinton Campaign’s credibility.

The Dossier contains a trove of information documenting Russia’s campaign to throw the election to Trump. It also details a method of disbursing payouts from a pension fund in Florida to hackers located throughout the U.S. The campaign was so potent and effective that the Kremlin and Putin had to curtail it during the run up to the U.S. Elections to maintain plausible deniability.

At least one high-ranking Russian official in favor of a more aggressive espionage campaign, Sergei Ivanov, was fired by Putin when Russian interference became so conspicuous that it caught the attention of the Obama Administration, U.S. Intelligence Agencies, and the U.S. Media.

Glenn Simpson’s Testimony alternates between two narratives: one, a Republican attempt to discredit the Steele Dossier and the motives of its sponsor, Fusion GPS. For the Democrats, a proxy for Sen. Dianne Feinstein elicits the narrative of a dialog between Simpson and Steele as Steele reports back on his findings. Simpson states that Steele’s reports of Russian attempts to sway the U.S. election, the possibility of a U.S. President susceptible to blackmail by a foreign agent (via video from Moscow’s Ritz-Carlton), and the Trump Campaign’s ongoing collaboration with Russian agents motivated them to report their findings to the FBI. When the FBI failed to act, they then leaked the Steele Dossier to the press.

While the Republican’s questioning does little to impugn Fusion GPS and Steele (whom Simpson characterizes as one of the best in the business and a “Boy Scout”), the story told by Simpson is both fascinating and infuriating. Especially so in light of the Nunes Memo released on February 2, 2018 and Republican attempts to paint the FBI as hostile to Trump and for some reason favoring the Clinton Campaign during the lead-up to election day in November 2016.

As Steele’s intelligence illuminated Russia’s plot to turn the U.S. Election to Trump, who they felt they had in their back pocket, Simpson and Steele agreed to share what they knew with the FBI. In mid-October, Steele met with an FBI contact in Rome and agreed to hand over all of his data to them.

Approximately one week prior to the U.S. Elections, the FBI fed a story to the New York Times implying that Russia had little to no impact on the election. FBI Director James Comey then delivered a memo to Congress indicating that e-mails from Huma Abedin’s phone discovered on Anthony Weiner’s computer could contain evidence of wrongdoing by Hillary Clinton. Ultimately, those e-mails proved redundant. But the implication of more e-mail scandal clearly had a negative impact on Ms. Clinton.

Let’s review: the James Comey-led FBI – accused last week by Devin Nunes of anti-Trump bias and improperly obtaining FISA surveillance warrants on suspected Russian spy Carter Page – ignored evidence of a conspiracy by Russia, cast aspersions on Hillary Clinton one week before the election, and very well could have propelled Trump into the White House in the process.

The same FBI, loaded with Republicans including James Comey, (former Director) Bill Mueller, Rod Rosenstein, and Christopher Wray, that helped give the election to Trump, was in cahoots with the Democrats? That’s the conclusion The Nunes Memo attempts to draw.

If you’re familiar with The Steele Dossier and The Simpson Testimony, nothing prior to the 2016 U.S. Presidential Election indicates any assistance given to Democrats by the FBI or the nation’s intelligence apparatus. Or the Deep State. It’s the Trump Campaign and the Russian Government throwing a Hail Mary to get Trump elected, with an assist from the FBI (and the New York Times). Against all odds, it worked.

We may never know what sparked the about face by James Comey following the election. Perhaps it was a bout of conscience. Maybe it was the pressing for loyalty by Donald Trump behind closed doors. It might even be that when Michael Flynn, who claimed no meetings or ties with the Russians, turned out to be lying, Comey decided that the right thing to do was to turn over all the rocks to see what the Trump Campaign was hiding. But if Trump was innocent, when he fired Comey, he unleashed the dogs of hell upon his very own Presidency.

The cloud of suspicion surrounding Trump, from Russia’s espionage campaign to Friday’s release of the Nunes Memo and beyond will play out on the World Stage. Republican Party attacks on the legitimacy of the FBI, along with the unprecedented release of the toxic Nunes Memo and the suppression of a Democratic rebuttal signal a nadir in Congressional partisanship. All to protect Trump.

Now what? House Republicans have tried, and apparently failed, to flip the script by undermining the findings of the Steele Dossier, depicting an unholy and historically unlikely fellowship of the FBI and Democrats. The Nunes Memo might also be a trial balloon designed to facilitate Trump’s version of Nixon’s Saturday Night Massacre – firing Rod Rosenstein and successors until he can find someone to fire Mueller for him – under cover of what they were hoping would be a tide of popular sentiment.

It’s time to focus on two critical questions as the walls close in on Trump:

1) If there’s no collusion and no obstruction, why scorch the earth to discredit the FBI and derail the Mueller Investigation?

If Trump is innocent, how in the world would a Republican Senate, a Republican House and an intelligence bureau filled with Republicans and Trump appointees find him guilty of something he didn’t do? Unless…he did it.

The Steele Dossier, if corroborated, implicates the Russian Government and the Trump Presidential Campaign as in collusion/cahoots/conspiracy to throw the election to Trump. That would bring enough ammunition to nail anywhere from 4-10 Trump Staffers for conspiracy, and Trump himself for obstruction, at a minimum, to conspiring with a foreign state to defraud the U.S. Presidential Election process.

So, as the Mueller Investigation concludes, we will likely find out once and for all:

2) Is The Steele Dossier fact or fiction?

Everything rests on the corroboration or the refutation of The Steele Dossier. If it’s accurate, even partially, the Trump dominoes are going to fall. Including the Donald.

This might explain why, when it would be far more prudent and effective to weather the storm quietly, Trump, Nunes and their allies are going on the counter-attack, AKA, the defensive, while under scrutiny of a special investigator who, based on history and party affiliation, would seem to be inclined to find him innocent.

Donald Trump is a guy who’s done a lot of things. And a guy who’s been accused of a lot of things. Being good at appearing to be innocent is not one of them. From here, and these are certainly the cheap seats, albeit with ample reading light, President Trump sure looks and acts like he’s guilty. Or at least, like he thinks he’s going to be found guilty.

He certainly is not going to like it when faced with the inevitable question: what did he know, and when did he know it?

Keep reading. Keep asking questions. We shall see how it all plays out.


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