If you're joining late, Part 1 considers whether it really is likely that the anti-Trump conspirators would take the extraordinary risks they have taken simply to get Hillary Clinton elected president; or, perhaps, whether their collective panic has another explanation -- a red thread? Part 2 minutely examines Nellie H. Ohr, the Russian-speaking-ham-radio-operator Fusion GPS boss Glenn Simpson tried in vain to hide from investigators, and finds a tangle of red threads; Part 3 notes that Edward Baumgartner, another Fusion GPS Russia expert, was a Russian history major at Vassar (Class of 1995) when Nellie H. Ohr was a Russian professor at Vassar. Part 4 examines ex-MI6 agent Christopher Steele's political background and finds that he and his "opposite number," Nellie H. Ohr, may be birds of a red feather.
Ever since the "the Russian threat within" returned to American consciousness in the summer of 2016 as a media-elite projection onto Donald Trump, his America First MAGA agenda, and their supporters (which includes me, starting December 26, 2015), I have been perplexed, and even personally so. After all, in the course of writing a recent and sensational history of "the Russian threat within" called American Betrayal, I embarked on a course of continuing study of exactly how this "threat within" has been aided, abetted, camouflaged, protected and advanced by a conspiracy so immense, not to coin a phrase, for well over one hundred years.
However, right from the return of "the Russian threat within" in the summer of 2016, something didn't smell right, wasn't lining up. The general alarm over Candidate Trump sounded shrill and artificial next to the resolute quiet of the Obama years, especially when it came to "the Russian threat within" posed by a president whose mentor Frank Marshall Davis was a Communist Party operative on an FBI arrest list in case of war with the USSR; whose close political aides, Valerie Jarrett and David Axelrod, both, were descended from and mentored by Communist and/or Soviet operatives, some of whom were also associated with Davis. Not only was there no general alarm over this and so much more, there was media-enforced silence on these and related issues.
There was no general alarm over the 2009 "Russian reset" either: not over the arrest and quick expulsion of the Russian Illegals in 2010 (which the media treated like a Mission Impossible sequel); not over the Obama administration's approval that same year of the sale of 20 percent of US uranium stocks to the Russian government; not over the hot-mike of Obama and Medvedev in 2012, where Obama, discussing missile defense, tells Medvedev "it's important for [Putin] to give me space ... after my election I have more flexibility" (former DCIA/Gus-Hall-voter John Brennan refused to recognize a question from a member of Congress about this); not over the transfer of military-use, space, and nuclear technology to Russia via the Obama-Clinton "Russian-rest" project known as Skolkovo, which, according to an Army study released in 2013, had, by 2011, "begun its first weapons-related project -- the development of a hypersonic cruise missile engine." Skolkovo is the least well-known of the Obama-Clinton Russian scandals, and perhaps the most damaging to US national security.
No, it was the Trump-Russia frenzy that became the juggernaut, racing around and around White House, threatening not only the Trump presidency, but also any grasp, any conception (vestigial as it is) of what "the Russian threat within" was or is. Meanwhile, as evidence separately began to mount of an anti-Trump "coup" -- with links to the Kremlin -- the decibels and static of the media-elite projections onto Team Trump rose also. For example, even as evidence was finally forced into the open proving that the DNC and Hillary Clinton campaign were the mystery-clients paying huge sums throughout much of 2016 to Fusion GPS to produce an intelligence "dossier" against Donald Trump and his associates in Moscow and from Russian government sources via American and British IC leftists, the media-elite-projectionists just kept turning up the Sensurround on that 20-minute meeting at Trump Tower that Russian lawyer Natalia Veselnitskaya had sought with Don Trump Jr. in June 2016.
Hiss, vibrate, shriek and bang enough pots and no one will notice the difference? Is that the strategy? Differences have been duly noted. The question is whether there remains sufficient time and courage to do something about subversion at the highest government levels, or whether our institutions are too far gone already.
About Natalia Veselnitskaya -- and about Bill Browder. Note that the Russian lawyer and the billionaire ex-American-turned-Brit are very public opponents in court (the Prevezon case) and in Congress (the Magnitsky Act); however, they seem to share the same contempt for President Donald Trump.
Interesting, no? There are multiple interesting points to make, although I don't promise they match up. In fact, most of them don't. I'll just point out a couple.
My hunch that both Browder and Veselnitskaya are equally anti-Trump rests mainly on the symbolic power of a "meme" -- the Trump-as-Putin's-puppet artwork which began to appear online in 2016. Browder and Veselnitskaya both have posted this meme, Browder on Twitter in July of 2016, when the "Trump Russia" story began to coalesce (first in Franklin Foer's July 4 Slate piece, later amplified by Anne Applebaum's Washington Post column); Veselnitskaya posted it on her Faceboook page the day after President Trump's 2017 Inauguration Day (captured here in July 2017). At some point after July 2017, Veselnitskaya took the artwork off of her FB timeline, which is interesting, too.
Someone who was either anti-Hillary or pro-Trump would not spread such a smear. And were not these the very auspices under which Veselnitskaya scored her 2016 meeting with Don Trump Jr.? Was it all a set-up from the start? When Veselnitskaya arrived, the story goes, she lobbied against Browder and the Magnitsky Act; the meeting ended shortly.
Emily Tamkin, writing in Foreign Policy, points out the resulting "irony":
Yet the greatest irony of Veselnitskaya's ill-fated meeting with the future president's son and son-in-law is that it perhaps did more to ensure the future of the Magnitsky Act than anything Browder could have done on his own. Now, with multiple investigations into Russian interference in the 2016 election, including special counsel Robert Mueller's probe of the Trump campaign and its alleged ties to Russia, Trump has almost no choice but to support sanctions. In August 2017, Trump signed into law more sanctions on Russia.
How interesting also that this "irony" locked Trump into Magnitsky sanctions, which, as discussed in Part 1, just might possibly function, not as a strike on or even irritant to Vladimir Putin, but rather as the most effective means yet devised to compel these oligarchs and their wealth to return from the West to Russia, in the process bonding them more closely to the Putin regime.
Since this alternative strategy lies within the realm of possibility, we should consider also whether we might possibly be looking at a highly sophisticated disinformation campaign mounted not by "the Left" or by "the Swamp" or by the "NWO" but by the good, old-fashioned Kremlin. In other words, that the Magnitsky campaign is not all that it is cracked up to be. Since I don't think Bill Browder is all that he is cracked up to be (I will be elaborating on exactly why in a subsequent part), the alternative strategy becomes a surprisingly effortless thought experiment -- if one dares to think about it.
A couple of other possibly relevant points.
(2) After the Veselnitskaya-Trump Tower story broke on July 8 2017, CBS carried Bill Browder's take. Browder pegged Veselnitskya as "not just a lawyer," but as an "operator," "like the consigliere," and, in CBS's paraphrase, she wouldn't have been in the US to lobby against Magnitsky Act "without the Kremlin's blessing."
True? False? Framing? All of the above?
(3) A couple of days later, The Hill reported that Veselnitskaya wouldn't have been in the US without senior level intervention by the Obama administration: specifically, the Obama Department of Homeland Security acting at the request of the Obama Department of Justice.
Gosh, everyone seems to be on the same Russian page!
Back to the juggernaut.
Nowhere is the strange Russian force field more palpable than around the so-called Steele dossier. Once upon a time, it was supposed to stop Donald Trump from becoming president. Once upon another time, it was supposed to destroy his presidency. Today, like an unexploded grenade, it may pose more danger to its creators than anyone else, if someone can just figure out how to pull the pin and blast it to bits.
That someone may be Sen. Chuck Grassley, chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, who, last week, offered this update:
We have reviewed some information related to whether the FBI used the so-called Trump dossier and the extent of its relationship with its author, Christopher Steele. As we know now, Mr. Steele was hired by Fusion GPS to research Mr. Trump’s alleged ties to Russia. His work was funded by the DNC and the Clinton campaign. Remember, it took a subpoena and a court battle with the House Intelligence committee to force that fact out into the open.
Lawyers for the DNC and Clinton Campaign officials denied it to the press for months. They lied. The founder of Fusion GPS denied that his firm was “Democrat-linked.” That was untrue. When the news finally broke, New York Times reporters actually complained that people who knew better had flat out lied to them about who funded Mr. Steele’s dossier.
But, back before the 2016 election, it is unclear who knew that Steele was gathering dirt on Trump for the DNC and the Clinton campaign. Many of his sources for claims about the Trump campaign are Russian government officials. So, Steele, who was working for Fusion GPS, who was working for the DNC and the Clinton campaign, was working with the Russians. So, who was actually colluding with Russians? It’s becoming more clear.
Mr. Steele shared his, at least partially, Russian-based allegations far and wide. He shared them with the FBI. He shared them with the media. And, according to public reports, he shared them with high ranking officials in the Justice Department and the State Department.
Well, in the course of our review, Senator Graham and I came across some information that just does not add up. We saw Mr. Steele swearing one thing in a public libel suit against him in London. Then we saw contradictory things in documents that I am not going to talk about in an open setting. And from everything we’ve learned so far, we believe these discrepancies are significant. So, we sent a referral of Christopher Steele to the Justice Department and the FBI for potential violations of 18 USC 1001.
Also last week, Sens. Grassley and Lindsay Graham sent out a "batch of letters related to potential political influence on the FBI." Each one is a political bombshell.
Political influence on the FBI -- I like that; then again, might we also be looking at "Russian" influence on the FBI, too? Given the Russianness of practically everything else in this story, this taboo-notion should at least be a wild consideration. Just blow the red dust off the old Soviet models of front organizations and agents and "trusted contacts" and dupes and all the rest and see if any of the patterns look familiar.
Grassley and Graham sent out "six letters seeking information and documents regarding Christopher Steele’s work on behalf of the Democratic National Committee and Hillary for America. The letters seek information and documents relating to those political organizations’ knowledge of and involvement in Mr. Steele’s work and his reported interactions with the FBI while he was working on behalf of these political organizations."
These two senators are intent on exposing exactly how the "dossier" was weaponized within the US government.
There is also, however, the separate question related to the contents of the "dossier."
Joel Gilbert and Jack Cashill have highlighted the ridiculously awkward use and misuse of language throughout the "dossier," which points to foreign authorship. The document's sources are mostly Russian -- and heavily Russian government. For example, in the first installment, sources include a "senior Russian Foreign Ministry figure"; a "former top level Russian intelligence officer still active inside the Kremlin"; a senior Russian financial official"; and a "senior Kremlin official." Personally, I find it impossible to imagine that any honest, responsible and minimally competent intelligence professional would seek to overturn the Constitution on this basis.
Still, inquiring non-professionals want and need to know: What is the standard for judging intelligence that originates in Moscow?
This is not something I have seen too much discussed.
I think I struck the gold standard in Edward Jay Epstein's invaluable book, Deception: The Invisible War Between the CIA and the KGB (second edition). The book includes the distillation of interviews Epstein conducted over a decade with longtime CIA counterintelligence chief James Jesus Angleton.
On the question of deception -- how to recognize it; why American counterintelligence was (remains) institutionally blind to it -- Angleton offers the key, as important today as it ever was, even if the name of the USSR has changed.
[Angleton] explained that ordinary standards of evidence cannot be applied to much of the information the CIA receives from inside the Soviet bloc. It is a “denied area,” where often it is not possible for American case officers to meet, much less test, the ultimate sources in their chains of agents. What emerges in Washington from the darkness is copies of Soviet state documents and reports of what high-level Soviet officials have said in private.
The crucial issue is whether these documents and private conversations from the Soviet inner sanctum represent legitimate intelligence or disinformation. If the material has been intercepted without the knowledge of the KGB, it is considered intelligence; if it has been passed through this chain with the knowledge of the KGB, it is considered disinformation. What separates intelligence from disinformation is nothing more than an assumption about the enemy’s state of awareness – an assumption always open to question in the secret world.
It's hardly going out on a limb to guess that the chances are slim to none that the Hillary/DNC/Glenn Simpson/GPS Fusion teams were operating for months in or around Moscow without the knowledge of Russian intelligence.
By Angleton's definition, then, that makes the Democrat "dossier" look like a pack of Russian state disinformation, aimed at destroying, not "colluding" with, Donald Trump.
To be cont'd.