Trump is right: …it started with Ukraine.

Candidate Donald J Trump with campaign chair Paul Manafort, 2016 [Slate photo]

Trump’s claim is correct: “a lot of it started with Ukraine.” However, he’d best not be kicking that hornets’ nest. Ukraine was where the Russians perfected their election-tampering skills during their successful campaign to ensure the election of pro-Russian Viktor Yanukovych as Ukraine president. The Russians later deployed techniques tested in Ukraine to ensure Trump’s election as US president in 2016.

The Russians were aided in both campaigns by Paul Manafort, who became Trump’s campaign chair in 2016. In 2013, Manafort hired Republican operative and former congressman Vin Weber’s Mercury Public Affairs firm to lobby members of the US Senate and House foreign relations committees on behalf of Yanukovych. Manafort set up the European Centre for a Modern Ukraine (ECFMU), where he laundered funds from Yanukovych and pro-Russian Ukraine oligarchs through a straw-donor scheme carried out by Weber and his Mercury lobbyists.  

The scheme “engaged … every member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee,” Manafort wrote in a 2013 memo to Yanukovych. That engagement included a Nov. 13, 2013, visit with the current chair of the committee, Idaho’s Sen. Jim Risch, who on Dec. 4, 2013, received $1,000 contributions each from Mercury lobbyists Weber, Ed Kutler, and Mike McSherry, who were acting as unregistered foreign agents. In early April 2014, the ECFMU paid Mercury over $218,000 in fees and “reimbursements.”  

The Mercury/ECFMU/Manafort straw-donor scheme also contributed to US House foreign committee members, including “Putin’s favorite congressman” Dana Rohrabacher and Ed Royce, both of California, who are no longer in congress. Weber, Kutler, and McSherry have tried retroactively to update their foreign lobbying disclosures. In late August 2019, Weber resigned from Mercury Public Affairs, the lobbying group he founded, ​because of his association with Manafort and his failure to register as a foreign agent, which was still being investigated.

Trump displays his ignorance not only of what it was that actually “started with Ukraine,” but also of the technology of the election-manipulation process. In his infamous July 25 conversation with Ukraine president Zelensky, he said, “I would like you to find out what happened with this whole situation with Ukraine. They say CrowdStrike . . . [​there are ellipses here​] . . . I guess you have one of your wealthy people – the server, they say Ukraine has it.”

In searching for “the server,” the Tweeter-in-Chief betrays his ignorance of the very computer networks through which he spews his own daily rants. Trump seems to believe that Ukrainians tried but failed to highjack the 2016 presidential election for Hilary Clinton and that the evidence thereof is stored in a computer hidden away in Ukraine by an anti-Trumper oligarch. Of course, there is no such “server.”

CrowdSource is the cybersecurity company that the Democratic National Committee hired to investigate the 2016 hack of its computer system, which was comprised of 140 cloud-based servers. CrowdSource traced the hack back to two groups of Russian disinformation operations. Their discoveries were confirmed by US security officers and detailed in the Mueller investigation.

Turning Trump: Our Muscovian President

Following up on my posts nearly a year ago about The Muscovian Candidate, here are my recent “musings” on the possibility that Donald Trump is one of the “active measures,” активные мероприятия, cultivated by Russian intelligence agents to subvert US government policy. Much of the information about how Trump has been “played” or, if you prefer, “worked” by Russian agents since the 1980s has been gleaned from Luke Harding’s Collusion: Secret Meetings, Dirty Money, and How Russia Helped Donald Trump Win. Harding digs up a lot of evidence that supports the dossier on Donald Trump compiled by former British MI6 agent Christopher Steele.

If you don’t read Collusion, you might want to catch Terry Gross’ NPR interview with Harding: https://www.npr.org/2017/11/21/565654507/journalist-investigating-trump-and-russia-says-full-picture-is-one-of-collusion.

The Steele dossier is here: https://assets.documentcloud.org/documents/3259984/Trump-Intelligence-Allegations.pdf

Доверительная связь

Vladimir Kryuchkov.jpg

Vladimir Kryuchkov

Gen. Vladimir Alexandrovich Kryuchkov was head of foreign-intelligence gathering (1974-1988) and then under Mikhail Gorbachev, KGB chairman (1988–1991). Kryuchkov is credited with expanding Soviet foreign intelligence and bringing greater professionalism to Russian spycraft. He called for better use of special, unofficial and confidential contacts. “These should be acquired chiefly among prominent figures in politics and society, and important representatives of business and science.” These “special, unofficial and confidential contacts,” Доверительная связь, should supply valuable information but also “actively influence” their country’s foreign policy “in a direction of advantage to the USSR.”

Espionage depends on various levels of recruitment: Intelligence-gathering involves not only “agents” but also contacts who can be groomed to provide increasingly more valuable types of information. Over time, the ideal candidates can be cultivated to use their status to move information in the other direction, actively influencing opinion and policy in their own country that is favorable to Russia.

In 1984, Kryuchkov was concerned that, in spite of having expanded the cadre of foreign-intelligence agents four-fold to 12,000, the KGB was having little success in the US. He issued a series of classified memos suggesting creative ways to improve recruitment of “prominent figures in the West” who might be drawn “into some form of collaboration with us, as an agent, or confidential, special or unofficial contact.” He urged wider use of friendly (and more disciplined) intelligence services, like the Czech StBStátní bezpečnost, and East German Stasi, Staatssicherheitsdienst.

Kryuchkov developed a secret personality profile listing qualities case officers should look for: What was the likelihood that the “subject would come to power (occupy the post of president or prime minister)?” “Are pride, arrogance, egoism, ambition or vanity among subject’s natural characteristics?” “Compromising information about subject, including illegal acts in financial and commercial affairs, intrigues, speculation, bribes, graft…and exploitation of his position to enrich himself’” and any other information that would compromise the subject in his country.

Do these character traits seem familiar?

Donald Trump first came to the attention of Soviet agents in the late 1970s when he dated, then married Ivana Marie Zelníčková, a smart, good-looking, 28-year-old Czech skier and model. The StB had been keeping an eye on Ivana since as a teenager she left Zlin, her hometown in Moravia, with her ski instructor, George Syrovatka, with whom she was living when Trump met her in Montreal. In the early ’70s, Syrovatka had arranged Ivana’s marriage to Austrian real estate agent Alfred Winklemayr so she could get a Western passport to leave her homeland.

By the mid-’80s Trump was a sufficiently promising object of study to warrant an all-expenses-paid trip to Moscow arranged by Soviet ambassador Yuri Dubinin ostensibly to explore a joint hotel venture.

Wow! The president listens…

President Obama has just announced that he is going to Congress  as soon as it reconvenes with his plan to attack Syria. This will take a few days, time for the Russians to talk sense to Assad.

And, time for US to ask our senators and representative in Congress not to authorize an act of war, to press for a diplomatic solution, and to pursue whoever is responsible for the the mass murder of civilians (by gas or other means) and bring them to justice, using precision, police action if necessary.

In Idaho, you can email them at the following links:

Sen. Mike Crapo: http://www.crapo.senate.gov/contact/email.cfm

Sen. Jim Risch: http://www.risch.senate.gov/public/index.cfm?p=Email

Rep. Mike Simpson: http://simpson.house.gov/contact/

Congressman Labrador’s email isn’t working for me.