At the height of the Cold War in the 1950s, the American media and political world were full of bizarre conspiracy theories. TV and Hollywood fed Americans a steady diet of scary stories about KGB sleeper cells who are activated by a single telephone call from Moscow, corn-fed children brainwashed at secret Russian training camps and Soviet honey traps marrying Senators and Intelligence chiefs to strike at the very heart of Free World democracy.
Did the Russians really steal the American election that put Donald Trump in the White House, much to Russian President Vladimir Putin’s delight? According to a statement by George Papadopoulos, Trump campaign foreign policy adviser, to the FBI, “The Russians had emails of Clinton… thousands of emails.” In the summer of 2015, Dutch Intelligence notified their US counterparts that Cozy Bear, a pro-Putin hacking group, had broken into the Democratic National Committee servers.
On March 10, 2016, Russian hackers penetrated the account of Hillary Clinton’s campaign manager John Podesta and accessed over 50,000 emails. The same month, the British Intelligence notified the US NSA (National Security Agency) that it had intercepted Russian communications from the Democratic National Committee.
As the courts examine the evidence of Trump’s campaign officials and Russia colluding, and the Trump presidency unravels through a messy noodle soup of falsehood, evasions and scapegoats, the emerging circumstantial evidence of the Trump’s campaign colluding with Russia is nothing short of damning.
And the behaviour of the man the court filings refer to as “Individual 1” defies all diplomatic and strategic logic—starkly hostile towards America’s allies and exhibiting craven desire to please Putin. The doubt cloud that hangs over the White House has perpetuated the worst ever scandal in recent Washington history.
On May 12, 2017, the Acting Attorney General of the US-appointed Robert S Mueller III as Special Counsel for the Department of Justice to “investigate Russian interference with the 2016 Presidential election and related matters”. Most serious is the fact that for the first time in American history, a president—that too a sitting one—is being investigated by his own federal agencies for colluding, working against his country’s interests.
In November 2018, Trump’s long-time personal lawyer Michael Cohen pleaded guilty and admitted to Mueller that Trump personally told him to lie to hide his connection to Moscow; Cohen is one of the Trump representatives involved in building the upcoming Trump Tower in Moscow.
An unclassified report by the CIA, FBI and NSA agreed unanimously that, “Vladimir Putin ordered an influence campaign in 2016 aimed at the US presidential election.” Who benefits if Donald Trump pulls the US out of NATO, thereby crippling it? Putin, of course.
Who benefits from the Trump-ordered pullout of US troops from Syria? Putin. The withdrawal leaves Russia as the dominant military power in the region without a counter.
What transpired at the Trump-Putin secret meeting on the sidelines of the G20 summit without an American interpreter or State Department official present? The only interpreter was Russian.
In a previous Trump-Putin meeting in Hamburg, why did Trump order the interpreter to hide the details and took away her notes?
Why did Trump fire FBI director James Comey who had ordered an investigation into Russiagate? Comey accused Trump of asking him to kill the investigation. Why did Trump ask the country’s top Intelligence chiefs to deny publicly “the existence of any evidence of coordination between his campaign and the Russian government”?
Why did former Deputy Attorney General Sally Yates say that Michael Flynn, Trump’s former National Security Adviser, was being blackmailed by Russia?
Why has Trump refused to sign the ‘Paris Call for Trust and Security in Cyberspace’ declaration that prohibits indiscriminate or systematic harm to individuals and critical infrastructure?
Why did Trump’s aides lie about their contact with the Russians during the election campaign and transition to the presidency? The associates include Trump’s own son Donald Trump Jr, influential son-in-law and adviser Jared Kushner, Flynn and Attorney General Jeff Sessions (sacked in November 2018). The President’s aides have admitted lying about their encounters.
Did Republican fundraiser Peter Smith really commit suicide? It was Smith, who told cyber-researcher Matt Tait that someone on “the Dark Web” reached out to him, claiming to be in possession of Clinton’s emails when she was Secretary of State.
How much did Trump know about Cambridge Analytica’s (CA) data mining operation of Facebook accounts and collaboration with Wikileaks that led to his victory? He paid CA $5.9 million for “data management” services by December 12, 2016.
WEB OF COLLUSION
American Intelligence agencies are stunned that their President publically trusts Putin’s word that Russia did not interfere in the US elections in spite of evidence to the contrary. They are suspicious too.
“On the basis of developments to-date, it appears Trump holds his business interests higher than he does US national interests.
Either this or, as is speculated, Putin has something really serious by way of blackmail material on Trump. Such as video evidence of a compromised Trump seen frolicking with Russian prostitutes and partaking of sex games, hence the reference to the ‘golden shower’, etc.,” says Bharat Karnad, national security expert.
Mueller has indicted over 30 people, including four members of Trump’s campaign team and administration. Among them are Paul Manafort, Trump’s former election manager, Flynn, ex-campaign staff Rick Gates and George Papadopoulos, and computer programmer Richard Pinedo.
The Special Counsel has also indicted three Russian corporations doing business with the US and 25 Russians. The Russians charged are 13 staff of Internet Research Agency (IRA) for conspiracy to defraud the US, 12 Russian spies from the GRU military intelligence and a former Manafort aide.
Mueller’s 29-page indictment reveals a well-executed plot by Russian army officers targeting over 300 staffers on Clinton’s campaign for hacking into their computers and then subsequently releasing the stolen files through fake accounts into the public domain “to interfere with the 2016 presidential election” in Mueller’s words.
The specific online accounts, dates, locations and time period of the hackers’ attacks are also detailed in the indictment. The IRA, identified as the hacking agency, was registered with the Russian government in July 20-13 and, according to a 2018 federal indictment, conducts “information warfare against the United States of America” using fake names on social media and web portals.
“The Russians had serious concerns about Hillary Clinton becoming President, as she was known to be strongly anti-Russian. They did, therefore, use their extensive intelligence machinery to try and prevent her from getting elected. Given Trump’s long-standing business connections with Russia, it was relatively easy for the Russians to penetrate the inner circles of his election team and use their ‘assets’ to make life difficult for the Clinton campaign,” says former diplomat G Parthasarathy.
Trump’s relationship with Putin is the weakest link in his defence. Since Trump became President, he has met his Russian counterpart many times. On November 11, 2017, they met again after the Hamburg meeting, at the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation forum in Da Nang, Vietnam, after which Trump publically gave Putin a clean chit.
“I really believe that when he tells me that, he means it,” he said. At a formal meeting in Helsinki afterwards, the two leaders again spoke in private, with only their interpreters present. The two met in Buenos Aires later, ignoring Russian aggression against Ukraine.
David J Kramer, a former assistant secretary of state under President Bush, told a reporter, “I’ve never heard of a president conducting one-on-one meetings with his Russian counterpart without note-takers or without afterward offering readouts to his top aides. Putin is privy to what the two discussed—why can’t senior administration officials be trusted and looped in too?”
At the July 16, 2018, press conference in Helsinki, standing side by side with Putin, the US President blamed the frosty relationship with Russia on American ‘foolishness’—the first President who has insulted his own country abroad.
It was in Helsinki that the Americans learned that Trump Jr, Kushner and campaign chairman Manafort had met Russians at Trump Tower to get dirt on Clinton from the Russian government.
James Clapper, the former Director of National Intelligence, said, “President Trump was presented with clear and indisputable evidence that Russia interfered in the election.” The Mueller indictment showed that Russia’s spy agency GRU was working out of the “Tower” on Kirova Street, Moscow, from where the stream of stolen Clinton documents came.
On June 20, 2016, Russian spies allegedly spent over seven hours trying to connect to the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee (DCCC) network. On April 15, 2016, a DCCC computer was hacked for specific search terms like “hillary,” “cruz” and “trump,” and copied folders.
Russians also set up the Facebook page ‘Being Patriotic’ to mobilise pro-Trump “flash mobs” in 17 Florida cities. Twitter analysed that the 175,000 pro-Trump tweets that came over the 10 weeks before the election were from IRA that operated more than 50,000 Russian-linked automated accounts. It seems that the justice and security system of America is trying to defend the country against one man—its own president Donald Trump.
Putin’s conquest of Trump has brought Russia crucial victories in the resource-rich Baltic and the Middle East. When complete, it would also mean the end of sanctions against Russia which would allow Russian banks to operate in the US.
On March 6, 2014, President Barack Obama had imposed sanctions against Russia for its invasion of Ukraine, and against privileged individuals in Putin’s inner circle like Vladimir Kozhin, who has got Trump millions for his real estate projects.
In July 2016, Trump told Russian gun rights champion Maria Butina that sanctions on Russia are not needed. It is no secret in diplomatic circles that Russia believes it can own the world at the expense of a weak America and a supportive President willing to dismantle the Cold War Western military and trade alliances put in place by the US after World War II ended.
Trump has been consistently humiliating towards NATO leaders and trying to systematically destroy America’s relationship with allies to Putin’s delight. The US pulled out of the 2015 Iran nuclear deal and the Paris Agreement.
Trump was reluctant to support NATO’s commitment to defend member Montenegro after a Russian-sponsored coup failed. A bipartisan bill to impose severe sanctions against Russia, if it is caught meddling in 2018 or other future elections, is stuck in the Republican-controlled Senate.
Trump has been reluctant to criticise Russia in spite of his scathing attacks on Theresa May and Angela Merkel; for example, he hemmed and hawed when British Intelligence found Russia attempted to assassinate a dissident and his daughter on British soil.
When Trump announced the Syria withdrawal, Putin told reporters, “Donald is right, and I agree with him.” It is obvious that Putin still speaks the language of the Soviet Republic which he served as a KGB officer.
He blamed American troops for being in Syria illegally because unlike the Russian Army, they were not invited by President Assad: ‘invitation’ was a favourite ploy used by Putin’s former republic to invade countries such as Hungary and Czechoslovakia and ultimately Afghanistan that proved to be the USSR’s Waterloo.
Putin sees himself as the Tsar reborn and is willing to utilise all means possible to restore Russia to its former glory. He is reshaping the world in his own image and Trump is one of his favourite sculptors.
However, even if the US President is given the benefit of doubt that he was unaware of Russian interference that gave him America’s crown, he is unlikely to back down from his abrasive perch. Trump’s monumental ego would not let him admit that he is Putin’s pawn.
The paralysis of the US government caused by Trump’s intractable position on the Mexico border wall is detracting attention from Russiagate much to the relief of Republicans. To even think the President of the United States of America, a Republican, is a Russian agent would be suicidal for the party—a blow it will take decades to recover from.
In 1956, the USSR’s supreme leader Nikita Khrushchev declared, “We will take America without firing a shot. We do not have to invade the US. We will destroy you from within....” Donald Trump is there to help.
Here Lies Trump
According to fact-checkers, Trump has made over 2,900 false claims since taking office till October 2018, averaging more than four lies daily. On October 22, at a Texas rally, his record was 83 lies in a single day.
July 26, 2016
“I mean I have nothing to do with Russia. I don’t have any jobs in Russia. I’m all over the world but we’re not involved in Russia.”
October 9, 2016
“I know nothing about Russia ... I don't deal there.”
At the second presidential debate
October 24, 2016
“I have nothing to do with Russia folks, I’ll give you a written statement.”
At a Florida campaign rally
October 26, 2016
“First of all, I don’t know Putin, have no business whatsoever with Russia, have nothing to do with Russia.”
At a North Carolina rally
The murky atmosphere of Russiagate is stained by many mysterious deaths of people who were connected to the affair in various ways. The first death was of Russian lawyer Sergei Magnitsky, who was hired by American financier William Browder. Magnitsky had discovered that corrupt Russian officials had diverted more than USD 230 million in taxes paid to the Russian government.
After Magnitsky testified, he was arrested, jailed and tortured to death. In October 2016, Russian Consulate Official Sergei Krivov, who was in charge of security, died inside the Russian consulate in New York City just before voting began. At first, consular officials said the cause of death was “a fall from the roof,” which they amended later to “heart attack”. The police report showed “an unknown trauma to the head”.
In December 2016, Russian Intelligence Officer Oleg Erovinkin was found dead in his car in Moscow. Erovinkin was Rosneft president Igor Sechin’s chief of staff since 2008—the mammoth Russian oil corporation sanctioned by the US for its role in Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.
In February 2017, Russian Ambassador to UN Vitaly Churkin, who had helped arrange Trump’s first Moscow visit, died in his New York office of undisclosed causes. The following month, Alex Oronov, a Ukrainian émigré businessman in New York, also died of unknown causes. He was reportedly behind the meeting between Trump aides and a Ukrainian MP in January 2017 to discuss the Ukraine Peace plan. In March 2017, former Trump advisor Roger Stone himself was in a road accident, which he said was possibly deliberate.