12:25 PM 9/6/2017 – News Review

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There’s A Potential Crack In Trump’s Base: Supporters Who Once Voted For Obama

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They’re more likely than any other group to regret their votes, a survey finds.

M.N.: This article below, by John Sipher, is one of the important, clear, logical, and professionally written pieces of information on “Steele Dossier” and the related matters – Knowing What We Know Now by John Sipher 

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M.N.: This article below, by John Sipher, is one of the important, clear, logical, and professionally written pieces of information on “Steele Dossier” and the related matters. It is regrettable, however, that the author did not mention the mysterious death of Oleg Erovinkin who is assumed to be and is referred to as the main source of information, and even the ultimate author of this document. This omission can be addressed in the future reports by Mr. Sipher. The overall issue of veracity and the ultimate sources of the “dossier” presently appear to be unresolved. 

One of the practical points of this article which might be of some value to the investigators, despite its seeming triviality, is that the true understanding of the events in general, and this issue in particular, develops in its dynamics, in the process, in time, and very often becomes available, clears up, and matures in hindsight, with passing of time and the accumulation of the relevant information which was hidden and comes to light only now. We live, we learn, and we try to comprehend and to understand. 

If we only knew then, what we know now…

A Second Look at the Steele Dossier—Knowing What We Know Now 

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[Editor’s Note: In this special Just Security article, highly respected former member of the CIA’s Senior Intelligence Service, John Sipher examines the Steele dossier using methods that an intelligence officer would to try to validate such information. Sipher concludes that the dossier’s information on campaign collusion is generally credible when measured against standard Russian intelligence practices, events subsequent to Steele’s reporting, and information that has become available in the nine months since Steele’s final report. The dossier, in Sipher’s view, is not without fault, including factual inaccuracies. Those errors, however, do not detract from an overarching framework that has proven to be ever more reliable as new revelations about potential Trump campaign collusion with the Kremlin and its affiliates has come to light in the nine months since Steele submitted his final report.]

Recent revelations of Trump campaign connections to Russia have revived interest in the so-called Steele Dossier.  The dossier is composed of a batch of short reports produced between June and December 2016 by Orbis International, a London-based firm specializing in commercial intelligence for government and private-sector clients.  The collection of Orbis reports caused an uproar when it was published online by the US website BuzzFeed, just ten days before Donald Trump’s inauguration.  Taken together, the series of reports painted a picture of active collusion between the Kremlin and key Trump campaign officials based on years of Russian intelligence work against Trump and some of his associates.  This seemed to complement general statements from US intelligence officials about Russia’s active efforts to undermine the US election.  The greatest attention was paid to the first report, which conveyed salacious claims about Trump consorting with prostitutes in Moscow in 2013.  Trump himself publicly refuted the story, while Trump associates denied reported details about their engagement with Russian officials.  A lot of ink and pixels were also spent on the question whether it was appropriate for the media to publish the dossier. The furor quickly passed, the next news cycle came, and the American media has been largely reluctant to revisit the report over the months since.

Almost immediately after the dossier was leaked, media outlets and commentators pointed out that the material was unproven. News editors affixed the terms “unverified” and “unsubstantiated” to all discussion of the issue in the responsible media.  Political supporters of President Trump simply tagged it as “fake news.”  Riding that wave, even legendary Washington Post reported Bob Woodward characterized the report as “garbage.”

For professional investigators, however, the dossier is by no means a useless document.  Although the reports were produced episodically, almost erratically, over a five-month period, they present a coherent narrative of collusion between the Kremlin and the Trump campaign.  As a result, they offer an overarching framework for what might have happened based on individuals on the Russian side who claimed to have insight into Moscow’s goals and operational tactics.  Until we have another more credible narrative, we should do all we can to examine closely and confirm or dispute the reports.

Many of my former CIA colleagues have taken the Orbis reports seriously since they were first published.  This is not because they are not fond of Trump (and many admittedly are not), but because they understand the potential plausibility of the reports’ overall narrative based on their experienced understanding of both Russian methods, and the nature of raw intelligence reporting.  Immediately following the BuzzFeed leak, one of my closest former CIA colleagues told me that he recognized the reports as the obvious product of a former Secret Intelligence Service (SIS) officer, since the format, structure, and language mirrored what he had seen over a career of reading SIS reports provided to CIA in liaison channels.  He and others withheld judgment about the veracity of the reports, but for the reasons I outline further below they did not reject them out of hand.  In fact, they were more inclined for professional reasons to put them in the “trust but verify” category.

So how should we unpack the so-called Steele dossier from an intelligence perspective?

I spent almost thirty years producing what CIA calls “raw reporting” from human agents.  At heart, this is what Orbis did.  They were not producing finished analysis, but were passing on to a client distilled reporting that they had obtained in response to specific questions.  The difference is crucial, for it is the one that American journalists routinely fail to understand.  When disseminating a raw intelligence report, an intelligence agency is not vouching for the accuracy of the information provided by the report’s sources and/or subsources.  Rather it is claiming that it has made strenuous efforts to validate that it is reporting accurately what the sources/subsources claim has happened.  The onus for sorting out the veracity and for putting the reporting in context against other reporting – which may confirm or deny the new report – rests with the intelligence community’s professional analytic cadre.  In the case of the dossier, Orbis was not saying that everything that it reported was accurate, but that it had made a good-faith effort to pass along faithfully what its identified insiders said was accurate.  This is routine in the intelligence business. And this form of reporting is often a critical product in putting together more final intelligence assessments.

In this sense, the so-called Steele dossier is not a dossier at all.  A dossier suggests a summary or case history.  Mr. Steele’s product is not a report delivered with a bow at the end of an investigation.  Instead, it is a series of contemporaneous raw reports that do not have the benefit of hindsight.  Among the unnamed sources are “a senior Russian foreign ministry official,” “a former top-level intelligence officer still active inside the Kremlin,” and “a close associate of Republican U.S. presidential candidate Donald Trump.”  Thus, the reports are not an attempt to connect the dots, but instead an effort to uncover new and potentially relevant dots in the first place.

What’s most relevant in the Orbis reports?

Let me illustrate what the reports contain by unpacking the first and most notorious of the seventeen Orbis reports, and then move to some of the other ones.  The first 2 ½ page report was dated June 20, 206 and entitled “Company Intelligence Report 2016/080.”  It starts with several summary bullets, and continues with additional detail attributed to sources A-E and G (there may be a source F but part of the report is blacked out).  The report makes a number of explosive claims, all of which at the time of the report were unknown to the public.

Among other assertions, three sources in the Orbis report describe a multi-year effort by Russian authorities to cultivate, support and assist Donald Trump.  According to the account, the Kremlin provided Trump with intelligence on his political primary opponents and access to potential business deals in Russia.  Perhaps more importantly, Russia had offered to provide potentially compromising material on Hillary Clinton, consisting of bugged conversations during her travels to Russia, and evidence of her viewpoints that contradicted her public positions on various issues.

The report also alleged that the internal Russian intelligence service (FSB) had developed potentially compromising material on Trump, to include details of “perverted sexual acts” which were arranged and monitored by the FSB.  Specifically, the compromising material, according to this entry in the report, included an occasion when Trump hired the presidential suite at a top Moscow hotel which had hosted President and Mrs. Obama, and employed prostitutes to defile the bed where the President had slept.  Four separate sources also described “unorthodox” and embarrassing behavior by Trump over the years that the FSB believed could be used to blackmail the then presidential candidate.

The report stated that Russian President Putin was supportive of the effort to cultivate Trump, and the primary aim was to sow discord and disunity within the U.S. and the West.  The dossier of FSB-collected information on Hillary Clinton was managed by Kremlin chief spokesman Dimitry Peskov.

Subsequent reports provide additional detail about the conspiracy, which includes information about cyber-attacks against the U.S.  They allege that Paul Manafort managed the conspiracy to exploit political information on Hillary Clinton in return for information on Russian oligarchs outside Russia, and an agreement to “sideline” Ukraine as a campaign issue.  Trump campaign operative Carter Page is also said to have played a role in shuttling information to Moscow, while Trump’s personal lawyer, Michael Cohen, reportedly took over efforts after Manafort left the campaign, personally providing cash payments for Russian hackers.  In one account, Putin and his aides expressed concern over kick-backs of cash to Manafort from former Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovych, which they feared might be discoverable by U.S. authorities.  The Kremlin also feared that the U.S. might stumble onto the conspiracy through the actions of a Russian diplomat in Washington, Mikhail Kalugin, and therefore had him withdrawn, according to the reports.

By late fall 2016, the Orbis team reported that a Russian-supported company had been “using botnets and porn traffic to transmit viruses, plant bugs, steal data and conduct ‘altering operations’ against the Democratic Party leadership.”  Hackers recruited by the FSB under duress were involved in the operations.  According to the report, Carter Page insisted that payments be made quickly and discreetly, and that cyber operators should go to ground and cover their tracks.

Assessing the Orbis reports

What should be made of these leaked reports with unnamed sources on issues that were deliberately concealed by the participants?  Honest media outlets have reported on subsequent events that appear to be connected to the reports, but do not go too far with their analysis, concluding still that the dossier is unverified.  Almost no outlets have reported on the salacious sexual allegations, leaving the public with very little sense as to whether the dossier is true, false, important or unimportant in that respect.

While the reluctance of the media to speculate as to the value of the report is understandable, professional intelligence analysts and investigators do not have the luxury of simply dismissing the information.  They instead need to do all they can to put it into context, determine what appears credible, and openly acknowledge the gaps in understanding so that collectors can seek additional information that might help make sense of the charges.

Step One: Source Validation

In the intelligence world, we always begin with source validation, focusing on what intelligence professionals call “the chain of acquisition.”  In this case we would look for detailed information on (in this order) Orbis, Steele, his means of collection (e.g., who was working for him in collecting information), his sources, their sub-sources (witting or unwitting), and the actual people, organizations and issues being reported on.

Intelligence methodology presumes that perfect information is never available, and that the vetting process involves cross-checking both the source of the information as well as the information itself.  There is a saying among spy handlers, “vet the source first before attempting to vet the source’s information.”  Information from human sources (the spies themselves) is dependent on their distinct access to information, and every source has a particular lens.  Professional collectors and debriefing experts do not elicit information from a source outside of the source’s area of specific access.  They also understand that inaccuracies are inevitable, even if the source is not trying to mislead.  The intelligence process is built upon a feedback cycle that corroborates what it can, and then goes back to gather additional information to help build confidence in the assessment.  The process is dispassionate, unemotional, professional and never ending.

Faced with the raw reports in the Orbis document, how might an intelligence professional approach the jumble of information?

The first thing to examine is Christopher Steele, the author of the reports, and his organization Orbis International.  Are they credible?

Steele was the President of the Cambridge Union at university, and was a career British intelligence officer with service in Moscow, Paris and Afghanistan prior to work as the head of the Russia desk at British intelligence HQS.  While in London he worked as the personal handler of Russian defector Alexander Litvinenko.  He was a respected professional who had success in some of the most difficult intelligence environments.  He retired from SIS in 2009 and started Orbis Business Intelligence along with a former colleague.  Prior to his work on the Russian dossier for Orbis, he was best known for his investigation of the world soccer association (FIFA), which provided direct support to the FBI’s successful corruption case.  Steele and Orbis were also known for assisting various European countries in understanding Russian efforts to meddle in their affairs.

Like any private firm, Orbis’ ability to remain in business relies on its track record of credibility.   Success for Steele and his colleagues depends on his integrity, reliability, and the firm’s reputation for serious work.  In this regard, Steele is putting his reputation and his company’s continued existence on the line with each report.  Yes, as with anyone operating in the murky world of intelligence, he could be duped.  Nonetheless, his reputation for handling sensitive Russian espionage operations over the years suggests that he is security conscious and aware of Russian counterintelligence and disinformation efforts.  His willingness to share his work with professional investigative agencies such as the FBI and the British Security Service also suggest that he is comfortable opening his work to scrutiny, and is seen as a serious partner by the best in the business.

The biggest problem with confirming the details of the Steele “dossier” is obvious: we do not know his sources, other than via the short descriptions in the reports.  In CIA’s clandestine service, we spent by far the bulk of our work finding, recruiting and validating sources.  Before we would ever consider disseminating an intelligence report, we would move heaven and earth to understand the access, reliability, trustworthiness, motivation and dependability of our source.  We believe it is critical to validate the source before we can validate the reliability of the source’s information.  How does the source know about what he/she is reporting?  How did the source get the information?  Who are his/her sub-sources?  What do we know about the sub-sources?  Why is the source sharing the information?  Is the source a serious person who has taken appropriate measures to protect their efforts?

One clue as to the credibility of the sources in these reports is that Steele shared them with the FBI.  The fact that the FBI reportedly sought to work with him and to pay him to develop additional information on the sources suggest that at least some of them were worth taking seriously.  At the very least, the FBI will be able to validate the credibility of the sources, and therefore better judge the information.  As one recently retired senior intelligence officer with deep experience in espionage investigations quipped, “I assign more credence to the Steele report knowing that the FBI paid him for his research.  From my experience, there is nobody more miserly than the FBI.  If they were willing to pay Mr. Steele, they must have seen something of real value.”

Step Two: Assessing the Substantive Content

As outsiders without the investigative tools available to the FBI, we can only look at the information and determine if it makes sense given subsequent events and the revelation of additional information.  Mr. Steele did not have the benefit of knowing Mr. Trump would win the election or how events might play out.  In this regard, does any of the information we have learned since June 2016 assign greater or less credibility to the information?  Were the people mentioned in the report real?  Were their affiliations correct?  Did any of the activities reported happen as predicted?

To a large extent, yes.

The most obvious occurrence that could not have been known to Orbis in June 2016, but shines bright in retrospect is the fact that Russia undertook a coordinated and massive effort to disrupt the 2016 U.S. election to help Donald Trump, as the U.S. intelligence community itself later concluded.  Well before any public knowledge of these events, the Orbis report identified multiple elements of the Russian operation including a cyber campaign, leaked documents related to Hillary Clinton, and meetings with Paul Manafort and other Trump affiliates to discuss the receipt of stolen documents.  Mr. Steele could not have known that the Russians stole information on Hillary Clinton, or that they were considering means to weaponize them in the U.S. election, all of which turned out to be stunningly accurate.  The U.S. government only published its conclusions in January 2017, with an assessment of some elements in October 2016.  It was also apparently news to investigators when the New York Times in July 2017 published Don Jr’s emails arranging for the receipt of information held by the Russians about Hillary Clinton. How could Steele and Orbis know in June 2016 that the Russians were working actively to elect Donald Trump and damage Hillary Clinton? How could Steele and Orbis have known about the Russian overtures to the Trump Team involving derogatory information on Clinton?

We have also subsequently learned of Trump’s long-standing interest in, and experience with Russia and Russians.  A February 2017 New York Times article reported that phone records and intercepted calls show that members of Trump’s campaign and other Trump associates had repeated contacts with senior Russian officials in the year before the election.  The New York Times article was also corroborated by CNN and Reuters independent reports. And even Russian officials have acknowledged some of these and other repeated contacts. Although Trump has denied the connections, numerous credible reports suggest that both he and Manafort have long-standing relationships with Russians, and pro-Putin groups.  In August 2017, CNN reported on “intercepted communications that US intelligence agencies collected among suspected Russian operatives discussing their efforts to work with Manafort…to coordinate information that could damage Hillary Clinton’s election prospects” including “conversations with Manafort, encouraging help from the Russians.”

We learned that when Carter Page traveled to Moscow in July 2016, he met with close Putin ally and Chairman of the Russian state oil company, Igor Sechin.  A later Steele report also claimed that he met with Parliamentary Secretary Igor Divyekin while in Moscow.  Renowned investigative journalist Michael Isikoff reported in September 2016 that U.S. intelligence sources confirmed that Page met with both Sechin and Divyekin during his July trip to Russia. What’s more, the Justice Department obtaineda wiretap in summer 2016 on Page after satisfying a court that there was sufficient evidence to show Page was operating as a Russian agent.

While the Orbis team had no way to know it, subsequent reports from U.S. officials confirmed that Washington-based diplomat Mikhail Kalugin was an undercover intelligence officer and was pulled out of the Embassy and sent home in summer 2016.

The Orbis documents refer repeatedly to Paul Manafort’s “off-the-books” payments from ousted Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovych’s pro-Russian party, and Russian concerns that it may be a vulnerability that could jeopardize the effort.  According to the Orbis report, the Russians were concerned about “further scandals involving Manafort’s commercial and political role in Russia/Ukraine.” And, indeed, there have been further scandals since the Orbis reports were written. Those include Manafort being compelled in June 2017 to register retroactively as a foreign agent of a pro-Russian political parties in Ukraine, and Mueller and New York Attorney Generals’ reportedinvestigation of Manafort for possible money laundering and tax evasion linked to Ukrainian ventures.

We do not have any reporting that implicates Michael Cohen in meetings with Russians as outlined in the dossier.  However, recent revelations indicate his long-standing relationships with key Russian and Ukrainian interlocutors, and highlight his role in a previously hidden effort to build a Trump tower in Moscow. During the campaign, those efforts included email exchanges with Trump associate Felix Sater explicitly referring to getting Putin’s circle involved and helping Trump get elected.

Further, the Trump Administration’s effort lift sanctions on Russia immediately following the inauguration seems to mirror Orbis reporting related to Mr. Cohen’s promises to Russia, as reported in the Orbis documents.  A June 2017 Yahoo News article by Michael Isikoff described the Administration’s efforts to engage the State Department about lifting sanctions “almost as soon as they took office.”  Their efforts were halted by State Department officials and members of Congress.  Following the inauguration, Cohen was involved, again with Felix Sater, to engage in back-channel negotiations seeking a means to lift sanctions via a semi-developed Russian-Ukrainian plan (which also included the hand delivery of derogatory information on Ukrainian leaders) also fits with Orbis reporting related to Cohen.

The quid pro quo as alleged in the dossier was for the Trump team to “sideline” the Ukrainian issue in the campaign.  We learned subsequently the Trump platform committee changed only a single plank in the 60-page Republican platform prior to the Republican convention.  Of the hundreds of Republican positions and proposals, they altered only the single sentence that called for maintaining or increasing sanctions against Russia, increasing aid for Ukraine and “providing lethal defensive weapons” to the Ukrainian military.  The Trump team changed the wording to the more benign, “appropriate assistance.”

Consider, in addition, the Orbis report saying that Russia was utilizing hackers to influence voters and referring to payments to “hackers who had worked in Europe under Kremlin direction against the Clinton campaign.” A January 2017 Stanford study found that “fabricated stories favoring Donald Trump were shared a total of 30 million times, nearly quadruple the number of pro-Hillary Clinton shares leading up to the election.”  Also, in November, researchers at Oxford University published a report based on analysis of 19.4 million Twitter posts from early November prior to the election.  The report found that an “automated army of pro-Trump chatbots overwhelmed Clinton bots five to one in the days leading up to the presidential election.”  In March 2017, former FBI agent Clint Watts told Congress about websites involved in the Russian disinformation campaign “some of which mysteriously operate from Eastern Europe and are curiously led by pro-Russian editors of unknown financing.”

The Orbis report also refers specifically to the aim of the Russian influence campaign “to swing supporters of Bernie Sanders away from Hillary Clinton and across to Trump,” based on information given to Steele in early August 2016. It was not until March 2017, however, that former director of the National Security Agency, retired Gen. Keith Alexander in Senate testimony said of the Russian influence campaign, “what they were trying to do is to drive a wedge within the Democratic Party between the Clinton group and the Sanders group.” A March 2017 news report also detailed that Sanders supporter’s social media sites were infiltrated by fake news, originating from “dubious websites and posters linked back to Eastern Europe,” that tried to shift them against Clinton during the general election. John Mattes, a former Senate investigator who helped run the online campaign for Sanders, said he was struck by Steele’s report. Mattes said, Steele “was writing in real time about things I was seeing happening in August, but I couldn’t articulate until September.” It is important to emphasize here that Steele’s source for the change in plan was “an ethnic Russian associate of Republican US presidential candidate Donald Trump [who] discussed the reaction inside his camp.”

A slew of other revelations has directly tied many of the key players in the Trump campaign – most notably Paul Manafort, Carter Page, Michael Cohen, and Michael Flynn – who are specifically mentioned in the Orbis reports to Russian officials also mentioned in the reports.  To take one example, the first report says that Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov was responsible for Russia’s compromising materials on Hillary Clinton, and now we have reports that Michael Cohen had contacted Peskov directly in January 2016 seeking help with a Trump business deal in Moscow (after Cohen received the email from Trump business associate Felix Sater saying “Our boy can become president of the USA and we can engineer it. I will get all of Putins team to buy in on this.”).  To take another example, the third Orbis report says that Trump campaign manager Paul Manafort was managing the connection with the Kremlin, and we now know that he was present at the June 9 2016 meeting with Donald Trump, Jr., Russian lawyer Natalia Veselnitskaya and Rinat Akhmetshin, who has reportedly boasted of his ties to ties and experience in Soviet intelligence and counterintelligence.  According to a recent New York Times story, “Akhmetshin told journalists that he was a longtime acquaintance of Paul J. Manafort.”

The Orbis reports chronicle, and subsequent events demonstrate, that the Russian effort evolved over time, adapting to changing circumstances.  When their attack seemed to be having an effect, they doubled down, and when it looked like negative media attention was benefiting Ms. Clinton, they changed tactics.  The Orbis reports detail internal Kremlin frictions between the participants as the summer wore on.  If the dossier is to be believed, the Russian effort may well have started as an anti-Clinton operation, and only became combined with the separate effort to cultivate the Trump team when it appeared Trump might win the nomination.  The Russian effort was aggressive over the summer months, but seemed to back off and go into cover-up mode following the Access Hollywood revelations and the Obama Administration’s acknowledgement of Russian interference in the fall, realizing they might have gone too far and possibly benefitted Ms. Clinton.  However, when Trump won, they changed again and engaged with Ambassador Kislyak in Washington to get in touch with others in the Trump transition team.  As this process unfolded, control of operation on the Russian side passed from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, to the FSB, and later to the Presidential Administration.  It should be noted in this context, that the much-reported meetings with Ambassador Kislyak do not seem to be tied to the conspiracy. He is not an intelligence officer, and would be in the position to offer advice on politics, personalities and political culture in the United States, but would not be asked to engage in espionage activity.  It is likewise notable that Ambassador Kislyak receives only a passing reference in the Steele dossier and only having to do with his internal advice on the political fallout in the U.S. in reaction to the Russian campaign.

Of course, to determine if collusion occurred as alleged in the dossier, we would have to know if the Trump campaign continued to meet with Russian representatives subsequent to the June meeting.  As mentioned, in February, the New York Times, CNN, and Reuters, reported that members of Trump’s campaign and other Trump associates had repeated contacts with senior Russian officials in the year before the election, according to current and former American officials.  Subsequent reports cite receipt of intelligence from European security agencies reporting on odd meetings between Trump associates and Russian officials in Europe.  And, perhaps the best clue that there might be something to the narrative of meetings in summer 2016 was former CIA Director John Brennan’s carefully chosen phrase in front of the Senate intelligence committee about the contacts – “frequently, people who go along a treasonous path do not know they are on a treasonous path until it is too late.”  This period will likely be the one most closely scrutinized by FBI investigators.

In retrospect, there is even some indication that the salacious sexual allegations should not be dismissed out of hand.  Efforts to monitor foreigners and develop compromising material is completely consistent with Russian M.O.  I am certain that they have terabytes of film and audio from inside my apartment in Moscow.  Putin himself is known to have been implicated in several sex stings to embarrass his rivals, to include the famous broadcast of a clandestinely-acquired sex video to shame then Prosecutor General Yuriy Skuratov.

Perhaps more intriguing, the most explosive charge in the Steele document was the claim that Trump hired prostitutes to defile a bed slept in by former President Obama.  The important factor to consider is that Trump did not engage with the prostitutes himself, but instead allegedly sought to denigrate Obama.  If there is anything consistent in what we have learned about President Trump, it seems that his policies are almost exclusively about overturning and eradicating anything related to President Obama’s tenure.  In this sense, he is akin to the ancient Pharaohs, Byzantine and Roman Emperors like Caligula, who sought to obliterate the existence of their predecessors, even destroying and defacing their images.  Is it inconceivable that he would get some satisfaction from a private shaming of the former President?

Separate Orbis reports also asserted that Trump himself engaged in unorthodox, perverted sexual behavior over the years that “has provided authorities with enough embarrassing and compromising material on the Republican presidential candidate to be able to blackmail him if they so wished.”  While it is not worth serious exploration, the notion that Trump might be involved with beautiful young women as alleged in the reports doesn’t seem to be much of a stretch.  His private life is well documented and litigated, such that it doesn’t seem wholly out-of-bounds to tie the reports about his activity in Russia with his history of undue interest in young women.  Again, there is no means to independently confirm the information and the media shouldn’t try.  An intelligence professional or investigator cannot shy away, however, and should try to ascribe some level of confidence in the information as part of the process of validating the various sources and the overall credibility of the reporting.  If the specific reports prove untrue, it would cast doubt on other reporting from that source.

In these cases, blackmail does not need to be overt to be useful.  Simple knowledge that a potential adversary might have compromising information can influence behavior.  Whether or not his subsequent behavior as a candidate and President is consistent with possible overt or subtle blackmail is beyond my ability to assess or the FBI’s ability to prove, and is instead for each citizen to ponder.  Suffice it to say that Trumps obsequiousness toward Putin, his continued cover-ups, and his irrational acquiescence to Russian interests, often in direct opposition to his own Administration and Party, keep the issue on the table.

On the other hand, there is also information in the Steele reports that appears wrong or questionable.  For example, the notion that Steele and his team could develop so many quality sources with direct access to discussions inside the Kremlin is worth serious skepticism.  The CIA and other professional intelligence services rarely developed this kind of access despite expending significant resources over decades, according to published accounts.  It is also hard to believe that Orbis could have four separate sources reporting on the incident at the Moscow hotel. The reputation of the elite hotel in the center of Moscow depends on the discretion of its staff, and crossing the FSB is not something taken lightly in Russian society.  A source that could be so easily identified would be putting themselves at significant risk.  Further, additional information in the reports cannot be checked without the tools of a professional investigative service.  Of course, since the dossier was leaked, and we do not have additional follow-up reports, we don’t know if Orbis would have developed other sources or revised their reporting accordingly as they were able to develop feedback.  We also don’t know if the 35 pages leaked by BuzzFeed is the entirety of the dossier.  I suspect not.

* * *

So, more than a year after the production of the original raw reports, where do we stand?

I think it is fair to say that the report is not “garbage” as several commentators claimed.  The Orbis sources certainly got some things right – details that they could not have known prior.  Steele and his company appear serious and credible.  Of course, the failure of the Trump team to report details that later leaked out and fit the narrative may make the Steele allegations appear more prescient than they otherwise might.  At the same time, the hesitancy to be honest about contacts with Russia is consistent with allegations of a conspiracy.

All that said, one large portion of the dossier is crystal clear, certain, consistent and corroborated.  Russia’s goal all along has been to do damage to America and our leadership role in the world.  Also, the methods described in the report fit the Russians to a tee.  If the remainder of the report is largely true, Russia has a powerful weapon to help achieve its goal.  Even if it is largely false, the Kremlin still benefits from the confusion, uncertainty and political churn created by the resulting fallout.  In any regard, the Administration could help cauterize the damage by being honest, transparent and assisting those looking into the matter.  Sadly, the President has done the opposite, ensuring a Russian win no matter what.  In any event, I would suspect the Russians will look to muddy the waters and spread false and misleading information to confuse investigators and public officials.

As things stand, both investigators and voters will have to examine the information in their possession and make sense of it as best they can. Professional investigators can marry the report with human and signals intelligence, they can look at call records, travel records, interview people mentioned in the report, solicit assistance from friendly foreign police and intelligence services, subpoena records and tie it to subsequent events that can shed light on the various details.  We, on the other hand, will have to do our best to validate the information at hand.  Looking at new information through the framework outlined in the Steele document is not a bad place to start.

Photo Credit: Associated Press

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With just three weeks to go before Germans head to the polls, the authorities are looking at potential threats to the democratic process – and it’s little surprise that Russia once again finds itself in the spotlight.
Peter Oliver has more.

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News’s YouTube Videos: Hacking Fears: Germany suspects Russia of meddling in upcoming election 

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With just three weeks to go before Germans head to the polls, the authorities are looking at potential threats to the democratic process – and it’s little surprise that Russia once again finds itself in the spotlight.
Peter Oliver has more.

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News’s YouTube Videos: Putin: “Trump’s not my bride & I’m not his groom” 

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Russian President Vladimir Putin dismisses a question on whether he was “disappointed” with US President Donald Trump saying, “he is not my bride, and I’m not his groom”.

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WSJ.com Video – News: Trump Administration Ends DACA Program

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Attorney General Jeff Sessions announced Tuesday that the Trump administration is ending a five-year-old program that protects undocumented immigrants who entered the U.S. as children from deportation. Photo: Getty

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What Exactly Does the Steele Dirty Russian ‘Pee Tape’ Dossier on Trump Contain? – Newsweek

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What Exactly Does the Steele Dirty Russian ‘Pee Tape’ Dossier on Trump Contain?
Newsweek
Taken together, the series of reports painted a picture of active collusion between the Kremlin and key Trump campaign officials based on years of Russian intelligence work against Trumpand some of his associates. …. The most obvious occurrence that 
A Second Look at the Steele Dossier—Knowing What We Know NowJust Security

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The Early Edition: September 6, 2017 

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Before the start of business, Just Security provides a curated summary of up-to-the-minute developments at home and abroad. Here’s today’s news.

NORTH KOREA

“It is impossible to resolve the problem of the Korean peninsula only by sanctions and pressure,” Russian President Vladimir Putin said today after meeting with South Korean President Moon Jae-in in the Russian city of Vladivostok, also denouncing the Pyongyang regime for its nuclear program as a “crude violation of U.N. Security Council resolutions” that “undermines the non-proliferation regime and creates a threat to the security of northeastern Asia.” Denis Pinchuk and Christine Kim report at Reuters.

President Moon asked Putin to help with the crisis on the Korean peninsula and urged Russia to “at least cut off oil supplies to North Korea this time,” according to Moon’s spokesperson Yoon Young-chan, Putin expressing reluctance as such a move may “cause damage to people in hospitals or other ordinary citizens.” Michelle Ye Hee Lee reports at the Washington Post.

The U.S. request for a U.N. Security Council vote on Sept. 11 for sanctions against North Korea is “a little premature,” Russia’s ambassador to the U.N. Vassily Nebenzia said yesterday, casting doubt on the possibility of further sanctions. Stephanie Nebehay and Christine Kim report at Reuters.

The U.S. military will begin adding more launchers to the T.H.A.A.D. antimissile defense system in South Korea tomorrow, prompting protests from China who have urged the U.S. and South Korea to halt the deployment. The AP reports.

North Korea must understand that it has “no bright future” if it continues on its current path, Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe said today, adding that he wishes to discuss the crisis with President Putin and President Moon separately during meetings this week in Vladivostok. Reuters reports.

North Korea’s nuclear test on Sunday caused many landslides and wide disturbances at the Punggye-ri test site, analysts have found, based on information and new satellite images. William J. Broad reports at the New York Times.

“A conflict would be catastrophic,” Australian Prime Minister Malcom Turnbull said in phone call to Trump yesterday, according to Buzzfeed. Max Greenwood reports at the Hill.

U.S. lawmakers should hold back on new sanctions against North Korea due to “heightened” tensions, the chairperson of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee Sen. Bob Corker (R-Tenn.) said yesterday, Reuters reports.

The American Civil Liberties Union argued that only Congress can authorize a military strike on North Korea, the A.C.L.U. said in a letter to the president yesterday, stating that authorization constitutes a “fundamental principle of separation of powers,” Rebecca Kheel reports at the Hill.

The risks of taking stronger action against North Korea at this moment are too great for Chinese President Xi Jinping, the collapse of the Pyongyang regime would lead to an influx of refugees to China and bring U.S. and South Korean troops to its border, and bending to pressure from the U.S. would undermine China’s standing and give encouragement to political dissidents. Andrew Browne writes at the Wall Street Journal.

Growing resentment within China against North Korean leader Kim Jong-un reflect concerns that Pyongyang has inhibited China’s path to dominance in the region and the world, Jane Perlez writes at the New York Times.

China has been put in a difficult position following Trump’s implicit threat that China has to choose between cutting off fuel to North Korea or military action against the Pyongyang regime. Jane Perlez explains at the New York Times.

President Trump and Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe have cultivated a warm relationship and Trump has spoken numerous times to Abe about the North Korea threat, reflecting a closeness that has not been replicated between Trump and South Korean President Moon Jae-in. Motoko Rich observes at the New York Times.

Nuclear weapons offer the key to Kim Jong-un’s survival: providing a deterrence to the U.S. and countries in the region, helping it achieve its goal of expelling the U.S. from the region, and demonstrating to the North Korean people and the elite that the regime has been able to make technological developments in spite of sanctions. Anna Fifield writes at the Washington Post.

Three experts offer possible options for the U.S. to counter the North Korean threat without engaging militarily. Eric Talmadge summarizes their positions at the AP.

Trump’s promise to lift some restrictions on weapons it can sell to South Korea does not amount to a game changer and is a continuation of the Obama administration’s policy, David Axe writes at The Daily Beast.

The threat of nuclear confrontation is of genuine concern, the gravity of which cannot be obscured by the ample distractions offered by the Trump administration, Kathleen Parker writes at the Washington Post.

Wars often result from “bellicose rhetoric and bad information” and history shows us how miscalculation can lead to disaster, David Ignatius writes at the Washington Post.

SYRIA

The Syrian Army’s advance on Deir al-Zour broke the Islamic State’s three-year blockade of the city yesterday, according to Syrian state media, bringing the Syrian army and its allies closer in proximity to U.S.-backed forces in the neighboring province of Raqqa. Maria Abi-Habib and Nour Alakraa report at the Wall Street Journal.

It could take weeks, if not months, for the Syrian army to recapture all of Deir al-Zour, and the advance has caused concern among critics of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad who fear that the gains could give an opportunity for Assad’s allies – the Iranian backed militias and the Lebanese Shi’ite Hezbollah militia group – to expand their power in the region, the AP reports.

The offensive on Deir al-Zour bolsters the argument that Assad’s forces should liberate the remaining areas of Syria from the Islamic State, rather than U.S.-backed fighters, with analysts believing the motivation for the offensive on Deir al-Zour province was partly based on concern that the U.S. military would begin to focus on combating fighters in the province. Liz Sly reports at the Washington Post.

Syrian government forces used chemical weapons against civilians in opposition-held areas on 33 occasions, according to a report by the U.N. Commission of Inquiry on Syria released today. Stephanie Nebehay reports at Reuters.

U.S. airstrikes have been targeting Islamic State militants straying from a convoy in the Syrian desert. Paul McLeary summarizes the controversial Hezbollah-brokered transportation deal and the U.S. military’s reaction at Foreign Policy.

RUSSIA

“I am not his bride, nor his groom,” Russian President Vladimir Putin said of President Trump yesterday, stating that each leader defends their national interests, also disparaging the U.S. for its treatment of Russian diplomatic facilities on U.S. soil. Andrew Roth reports at the Washington Post.

Putin’s offer of a U.N. peacekeeping mission in eastern Ukraine “shows that Russia has effected a change in its policies that we should not gamble away,” Germany’s Foreign Minister Sigmar Gabriel said yesterday, welcoming Russia’s proposal for the U.N. mission to patrol the front line. Nataliya Vasilyeva reports at the AP.

“The delivery of weapons to a conflict zone doesn’t help peacekeeping efforts, but only worsens the situation,” Putin said yesterday, hitting back at Defense Secretary James Mattis for considering supplying Ukraine with defensive weapons, arguing that pro-Russian separatist “republics” in Ukraine could possibly “deploy weapons to other conflict zones.” John Bowden reports at the Hill.

TRUMP-RUSSIA INVESTIGATION

Donald Trump Jr. is scheduled to meet with the Senate Judiciary Committee tomorrow to discuss the Trump campaign’s connections to Russia, according to three Democratic members of the committee have said, Sen. Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.) also explaining that the committee has attempted to interview former Trump campaign chief Paul Manafort, but he has been “resistant.” Karoun Demirjian reports at the Washington Post.

The House Intelligence Committee has issued subpoenas to the Department of Justice and the F.B.I. in relation to the unverified dossier compiled by former British intelligence officer Christopher Steele, Rep Adam B. Schiff (D-Califf.) confirmed yesterday evening, also accusing Republicans of trying to “discredit” Steele and avoiding the substance of the allegations made in the dossier. Karoun Demirjian reports at the Washington Post.

The Steele dossier has faults, but is generally credible and offers a broad framework for understanding possible Trump campaign collusion with the Kremlin. John Sipher, a former member of the C.I.A.’s Senior Intelligence Service, provides an approximately 5,500 word analysis of the dossier at Just Security.

IRAN

“What happens next is significantly in Congress’s hands,” the U.S. ambassador to the U.N. Nikki Haley said in a speech discussing the 2015 Iran nuclear deal to a conservative thinktank yesterday, arguing that Trump would be justified in de-certifying Iran’s compliance, but noting that she recognizes that Congress and European allies do not want the U.S. to withdraw from the accord. Felicia Schwartz reports at the Wall Street Journal.

Trump must consider the wider context when making a decision on Iranian compliance with the nuclear deal, Haley also said yesterday, stating that Iran’s hostility to the U.S. and activity in the Middle East are factors to be considered, but emphasizing that her speech did not set out the president’s position when he must decide whether to certify Iran’s compliance next month. Nicole Gaouette, Elise Labott and Laura Koran report at CNN.

IRAQ

The Iraqi city of Falluja offers some lessons for the recently liberated city of Mosul, Paul Adams sets out the challenges at the BBC.

U.S.-led airstrikes continue. U.S. and coalition forces carried out 28 airstrikes against Islamic State targets in Syria on September 4. Separately, partner forces conducted nine strikes against targets in Iraq. [Central Command]

OTHER DEVELOPMENTS

If the Qatar crisis continues for years, “so be it,” Saudi Arabia’s Foreign Minister Adel al-Jubeir told reporters last night, maintaining a hard line following the Saudi-led bloc’s isolation of Qatar on June 5. Al Jazeera reports in rolling coverage.

Attorney General Jeff Sessions’ claim that the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals policy (D.A.C.A.) violated the constitution was “wrong and disingenuous,” reflecting the Trump administration’s policy preferences rather than concern for legislative authority. Adam Cox and Cristina Rodriguez analyze Sessions’ comments on D.A.C.A. and the Constitution at Just Security.

The U.N. Security Council approved a resolution establishing a sanctions committee to target those who have obstructed Mali’s 2015 peace agreement, France’s U.N. ambassador stating that the resolution “sends a very strong dissuasive message” to those hindering peace and stability. Edith M. Lederer reporting at the AP.

The Defense Department supports a Congressional bill closing military bases, top Pentagon official Lucian Niemeyer said yesterday, stating that such a move would improve military value and effectiveness. Ellen Mitchell reports at the Hill.

Secretary of State Rex Tillerson has been inconspicuous on North Korea and other major foreign policy issues, allowing U.S. ambassador to the U.N. Nikki Haley to take the limelight; reinforcing perceptions that the Trump administration is in chaos and reigniting rumors of a “Rexit.” Robbie Gramer and Dan De Luce write at Foreign Policy.

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A Second Look at the Steele Dossier—Knowing What We Know Now 

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[Editor’s Note: In this special Just Security article, highly respected former member of the CIA’s Senior Intelligence Service, John Sipher examines the Steele dossier using methods that an intelligence officer would to try to validate such information. Sipher concludes that the dossier’s information on campaign collusion is generally credible when measured against standard Russian intelligence practices, events subsequent to Steele’s reporting, and information that has become available in the nine months since Steele’s final report. The dossier, in Sipher’s view, is not without fault, including factual inaccuracies. Those errors, however, do not detract from an overarching framework that has proven to be ever more reliable as new revelations about potential Trump campaign collusion with the Kremlin and its affiliates has come to light in the nine months since Steele submitted his final report.]

Recent revelations of Trump campaign connections to Russia have revived interest in the so-called Steele Dossier.  The dossier is composed of a batch of short reports produced between June and December 2016 by Orbis International, a London-based firm specializing in commercial intelligence for government and private-sector clients.  The collection of Orbis reports caused an uproar when it was published online by the US website BuzzFeed, just ten days before Donald Trump’s inauguration.  Taken together, the series of reports painted a picture of active collusion between the Kremlin and key Trump campaign officials based on years of Russian intelligence work against Trump and some of his associates.  This seemed to complement general statements from US intelligence officials about Russia’s active efforts to undermine the US election.  The greatest attention was paid to the first report, which conveyed salacious claims about Trump consorting with prostitutes in Moscow in 2013.  Trump himself publicly refuted the story, while Trump associates denied reported details about their engagement with Russian officials.  A lot of ink and pixels were also spent on the question whether it was appropriate for the media to publish the dossier. The furor quickly passed, the next news cycle came, and the American media has been largely reluctant to revisit the report over the months since.

Almost immediately after the dossier was leaked, media outlets and commentators pointed out that the material was unproven. News editors affixed the terms “unverified” and “unsubstantiated” to all discussion of the issue in the responsible media.  Political supporters of President Trump simply tagged it as “fake news.”  Riding that wave, even legendary Washington Post reported Bob Woodward characterized the report as “garbage.”

For professional investigators, however, the dossier is by no means a useless document.  Although the reports were produced episodically, almost erratically, over a five-month period, they present a coherent narrative of collusion between the Kremlin and the Trump campaign.  As a result, they offer an overarching framework for what might have happened based on individuals on the Russian side who claimed to have insight into Moscow’s goals and operational tactics.  Until we have another more credible narrative, we should do all we can to examine closely and confirm or dispute the reports.

Many of my former CIA colleagues have taken the Orbis reports seriously since they were first published.  This is not because they are not fond of Trump (and many admittedly are not), but because they understand the potential plausibility of the reports’ overall narrative based on their experienced understanding of both Russian methods, and the nature of raw intelligence reporting.  Immediately following the BuzzFeed leak, one of my closest former CIA colleagues told me that he recognized the reports as the obvious product of a former Secret Intelligence Service (SIS) officer, since the format, structure, and language mirrored what he had seen over a career of reading SIS reports provided to CIA in liaison channels.  He and others withheld judgment about the veracity of the reports, but for the reasons I outline further below they did not reject them out of hand.  In fact, they were more inclined for professional reasons to put them in the “trust but verify” category.

So how should we unpack the so-called Steele dossier from an intelligence perspective?

I spent almost thirty years producing what CIA calls “raw reporting” from human agents.  At heart, this is what Orbis did.  They were not producing finished analysis, but were passing on to a client distilled reporting that they had obtained in response to specific questions.  The difference is crucial, for it is the one that American journalists routinely fail to understand.  When disseminating a raw intelligence report, an intelligence agency is not vouching for the accuracy of the information provided by the report’s sources and/or subsources.  Rather it is claiming that it has made strenuous efforts to validate that it is reporting accurately what the sources/subsources claim has happened.  The onus for sorting out the veracity and for putting the reporting in context against other reporting – which may confirm or deny the new report – rests with the intelligence community’s professional analytic cadre.  In the case of the dossier, Orbis was not saying that everything that it reported was accurate, but that it had made a good-faith effort to pass along faithfully what its identified insiders said was accurate.  This is routine in the intelligence business. And this form of reporting is often a critical product in putting together more final intelligence assessments.

In this sense, the so-called Steele dossier is not a dossier at all.  A dossier suggests a summary or case history.  Mr. Steele’s product is not a report delivered with a bow at the end of an investigation.  Instead, it is a series of contemporaneous raw reports that do not have the benefit of hindsight.  Among the unnamed sources are “a senior Russian foreign ministry official,” “a former top-level intelligence officer still active inside the Kremlin,” and “a close associate of Republican U.S. presidential candidate Donald Trump.”  Thus, the reports are not an attempt to connect the dots, but instead an effort to uncover new and potentially relevant dots in the first place.

What’s most relevant in the Orbis reports?

Let me illustrate what the reports contain by unpacking the first and most notorious of the seventeen Orbis reports, and then move to some of the other ones.  The first 2 ½ page report was dated June 20, 206 and entitled “Company Intelligence Report 2016/080.”  It starts with several summary bullets, and continues with additional detail attributed to sources A-E and G (there may be a source F but part of the report is blacked out).  The report makes a number of explosive claims, all of which at the time of the report were unknown to the public.

Among other assertions, three sources in the Orbis report describe a multi-year effort by Russian authorities to cultivate, support and assist Donald Trump.  According to the account, the Kremlin provided Trump with intelligence on his political primary opponents and access to potential business deals in Russia.  Perhaps more importantly, Russia had offered to provide potentially compromising material on Hillary Clinton, consisting of bugged conversations during her travels to Russia, and evidence of her viewpoints that contradicted her public positions on various issues.

The report also alleged that the internal Russian intelligence service (FSB) had developed potentially compromising material on Trump, to include details of “perverted sexual acts” which were arranged and monitored by the FSB.  Specifically, the compromising material, according to this entry in the report, included an occasion when Trump hired the presidential suite at a top Moscow hotel which had hosted President and Mrs. Obama, and employed prostitutes to defile the bed where the President had slept.  Four separate sources also described “unorthodox” and embarrassing behavior by Trump over the years that the FSB believed could be used to blackmail the then presidential candidate.

The report stated that Russian President Putin was supportive of the effort to cultivate Trump, and the primary aim was to sow discord and disunity within the U.S. and the West.  The dossier of FSB-collected information on Hillary Clinton was managed by Kremlin chief spokesman Dimitry Peskov.

Subsequent reports provide additional detail about the conspiracy, which includes information about cyber-attacks against the U.S.  They allege that Paul Manafort managed the conspiracy to exploit political information on Hillary Clinton in return for information on Russian oligarchs outside Russia, and an agreement to “sideline” Ukraine as a campaign issue.  Trump campaign operative Carter Page is also said to have played a role in shuttling information to Moscow, while Trump’s personal lawyer, Michael Cohen, reportedly took over efforts after Manafort left the campaign, personally providing cash payments for Russian hackers.  In one account, Putin and his aides expressed concern over kick-backs of cash to Manafort from former Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovych, which they feared might be discoverable by U.S. authorities.  The Kremlin also feared that the U.S. might stumble onto the conspiracy through the actions of a Russian diplomat in Washington, Mikhail Kalugin, and therefore had him withdrawn, according to the reports.

By late fall 2016, the Orbis team reported that a Russian-supported company had been “using botnets and porn traffic to transmit viruses, plant bugs, steal data and conduct ‘altering operations’ against the Democratic Party leadership.”  Hackers recruited by the FSB under duress were involved in the operations.  According to the report, Carter Page insisted that payments be made quickly and discreetly, and that cyber operators should go to ground and cover their tracks.

Assessing the Orbis reports

What should be made of these leaked reports with unnamed sources on issues that were deliberately concealed by the participants?  Honest media outlets have reported on subsequent events that appear to be connected to the reports, but do not go too far with their analysis, concluding still that the dossier is unverified.  Almost no outlets have reported on the salacious sexual allegations, leaving the public with very little sense as to whether the dossier is true, false, important or unimportant in that respect.

While the reluctance of the media to speculate as to the value of the report is understandable, professional intelligence analysts and investigators do not have the luxury of simply dismissing the information.  They instead need to do all they can to put it into context, determine what appears credible, and openly acknowledge the gaps in understanding so that collectors can seek additional information that might help make sense of the charges.

Step One: Source Validation

In the intelligence world, we always begin with source validation, focusing on what intelligence professionals call “the chain of acquisition.”  In this case we would look for detailed information on (in this order) Orbis, Steele, his means of collection (e.g., who was working for him in collecting information), his sources, their sub-sources (witting or unwitting), and the actual people, organizations and issues being reported on.

Intelligence methodology presumes that perfect information is never available, and that the vetting process involves cross-checking both the source of the information as well as the information itself.  There is a saying among spy handlers, “vet the source first before attempting to vet the source’s information.”  Information from human sources (the spies themselves) is dependent on their distinct access to information, and every source has a particular lens.  Professional collectors and debriefing experts do not elicit information from a source outside of the source’s area of specific access.  They also understand that inaccuracies are inevitable, even if the source is not trying to mislead.  The intelligence process is built upon a feedback cycle that corroborates what it can, and then goes back to gather additional information to help build confidence in the assessment.  The process is dispassionate, unemotional, professional and never ending.

Faced with the raw reports in the Orbis document, how might an intelligence professional approach the jumble of information?

The first thing to examine is Christopher Steele, the author of the reports, and his organization Orbis International.  Are they credible?

Steele was the President of the Cambridge Union at university, and was a career British intelligence officer with service in Moscow, Paris and Afghanistan prior to work as the head of the Russia desk at British intelligence HQS.  While in London he worked as the personal handler of Russian defector Alexander Litvinenko.  He was a respected professional who had success in some of the most difficult intelligence environments.  He retired from SIS in 2009 and started Orbis Business Intelligence along with a former colleague.  Prior to his work on the Russian dossier for Orbis, he was best known for his investigation of the world soccer association (FIFA), which provided direct support to the FBI’s successful corruption case.  Steele and Orbis were also known for assisting various European countries in understanding Russian efforts to meddle in their affairs.

Like any private firm, Orbis’ ability to remain in business relies on its track record of credibility.   Success for Steele and his colleagues depends on his integrity, reliability, and the firm’s reputation for serious work.  In this regard, Steele is putting his reputation and his company’s continued existence on the line with each report.  Yes, as with anyone operating in the murky world of intelligence, he could be duped.  Nonetheless, his reputation for handling sensitive Russian espionage operations over the years suggests that he is security conscious and aware of Russian counterintelligence and disinformation efforts.  His willingness to share his work with professional investigative agencies such as the FBI and the British Security Service also suggest that he is comfortable opening his work to scrutiny, and is seen as a serious partner by the best in the business.

The biggest problem with confirming the details of the Steele “dossier” is obvious: we do not know his sources, other than via the short descriptions in the reports.  In CIA’s clandestine service, we spent by far the bulk of our work finding, recruiting and validating sources.  Before we would ever consider disseminating an intelligence report, we would move heaven and earth to understand the access, reliability, trustworthiness, motivation and dependability of our source.  We believe it is critical to validate the source before we can validate the reliability of the source’s information.  How does the source know about what he/she is reporting?  How did the source get the information?  Who are his/her sub-sources?  What do we know about the sub-sources?  Why is the source sharing the information?  Is the source a serious person who has taken appropriate measures to protect their efforts?

One clue as to the credibility of the sources in these reports is that Steele shared them with the FBI.  The fact that the FBI reportedly sought to work with him and to pay him to develop additional information on the sources suggest that at least some of them were worth taking seriously.  At the very least, the FBI will be able to validate the credibility of the sources, and therefore better judge the information.  As one recently retired senior intelligence officer with deep experience in espionage investigations quipped, “I assign more credence to the Steele report knowing that the FBI paid him for his research.  From my experience, there is nobody more miserly than the FBI.  If they were willing to pay Mr. Steele, they must have seen something of real value.”

Step Two: Assessing the Substantive Content

As outsiders without the investigative tools available to the FBI, we can only look at the information and determine if it makes sense given subsequent events and the revelation of additional information.  Mr. Steele did not have the benefit of knowing Mr. Trump would win the election or how events might play out.  In this regard, does any of the information we have learned since June 2016 assign greater or less credibility to the information?  Were the people mentioned in the report real?  Were their affiliations correct?  Did any of the activities reported happen as predicted?

To a large extent, yes.

The most obvious occurrence that could not have been known to Orbis in June 2016, but shines bright in retrospect is the fact that Russia undertook a coordinated and massive effort to disrupt the 2016 U.S. election to help Donald Trump, as the U.S. intelligence community itself later concluded.  Well before any public knowledge of these events, the Orbis report identified multiple elements of the Russian operation including a cyber campaign, leaked documents related to Hillary Clinton, and meetings with Paul Manafort and other Trump affiliates to discuss the receipt of stolen documents.  Mr. Steele could not have known that the Russians stole information on Hillary Clinton, or that they were considering means to weaponize them in the U.S. election, all of which turned out to be stunningly accurate.  The U.S. government only published its conclusions in January 2017, with an assessment of some elements in October 2016.  It was also apparently news to investigators when the New York Times in July 2017 published Don Jr’s emails arranging for the receipt of information held by the Russians about Hillary Clinton. How could Steele and Orbis know in June 2016 that the Russians were working actively to elect Donald Trump and damage Hillary Clinton? How could Steele and Orbis have known about the Russian overtures to the Trump Team involving derogatory information on Clinton?

We have also subsequently learned of Trump’s long-standing interest in, and experience with Russia and Russians.  A February 2017 New York Times article reported that phone records and intercepted calls show that members of Trump’s campaign and other Trump associates had repeated contacts with senior Russian officials in the year before the election.  The New York Times article was also corroborated by CNN and Reuters independent reports. And even Russian officials have acknowledged some of these and other repeated contacts. Although Trump has denied the connections, numerous credible reports suggest that both he and Manafort have long-standing relationships with Russians, and pro-Putin groups.  In August 2017, CNN reported on “intercepted communications that US intelligence agencies collected among suspected Russian operatives discussing their efforts to work with Manafort…to coordinate information that could damage Hillary Clinton’s election prospects” including “conversations with Manafort, encouraging help from the Russians.”

We learned that when Carter Page traveled to Moscow in July 2016, he met with close Putin ally and Chairman of the Russian state oil company, Igor Sechin.  A later Steele report also claimed that he met with Parliamentary Secretary Igor Divyekin while in Moscow.  Renowned investigative journalist Michael Isikoff reported in September 2016 that U.S. intelligence sources confirmed that Page met with both Sechin and Divyekin during his July trip to Russia. What’s more, the Justice Department obtaineda wiretap in summer 2016 on Page after satisfying a court that there was sufficient evidence to show Page was operating as a Russian agent.

While the Orbis team had no way to know it, subsequent reports from U.S. officials confirmed that Washington-based diplomat Mikhail Kalugin was an undercover intelligence officer and was pulled out of the Embassy and sent home in summer 2016.

The Orbis documents refer repeatedly to Paul Manafort’s “off-the-books” payments from ousted Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovych’s pro-Russian party, and Russian concerns that it may be a vulnerability that could jeopardize the effort.  According to the Orbis report, the Russians were concerned about “further scandals involving Manafort’s commercial and political role in Russia/Ukraine.” And, indeed, there have been further scandals since the Orbis reports were written. Those include Manafort being compelled in June 2017 to register retroactively as a foreign agent of a pro-Russian political parties in Ukraine, and Mueller and New York Attorney Generals’ reportedinvestigation of Manafort for possible money laundering and tax evasion linked to Ukrainian ventures.

We do not have any reporting that implicates Michael Cohen in meetings with Russians as outlined in the dossier.  However, recent revelations indicate his long-standing relationships with key Russian and Ukrainian interlocutors, and highlight his role in a previously hidden effort to build a Trump tower in Moscow. During the campaign, those efforts included email exchanges with Trump associate Felix Sater explicitly referring to getting Putin’s circle involved and helping Trump get elected.

Further, the Trump Administration’s effort lift sanctions on Russia immediately following the inauguration seems to mirror Orbis reporting related to Mr. Cohen’s promises to Russia, as reported in the Orbis documents.  A June 2017 Yahoo News article by Michael Isikoff described the Administration’s efforts to engage the State Department about lifting sanctions “almost as soon as they took office.”  Their efforts were halted by State Department officials and members of Congress.  Following the inauguration, Cohen was involved, again with Felix Sater, to engage in back-channel negotiations seeking a means to lift sanctions via a semi-developed Russian-Ukrainian plan (which also included the hand delivery of derogatory information on Ukrainian leaders) also fits with Orbis reporting related to Cohen.

The quid pro quo as alleged in the dossier was for the Trump team to “sideline” the Ukrainian issue in the campaign.  We learned subsequently the Trump platform committee changed only a single plank in the 60-page Republican platform prior to the Republican convention.  Of the hundreds of Republican positions and proposals, they altered only the single sentence that called for maintaining or increasing sanctions against Russia, increasing aid for Ukraine and “providing lethal defensive weapons” to the Ukrainian military.  The Trump team changed the wording to the more benign, “appropriate assistance.”

Consider, in addition, the Orbis report saying that Russia was utilizing hackers to influence voters and referring to payments to “hackers who had worked in Europe under Kremlin direction against the Clinton campaign.” A January 2017 Stanford study found that “fabricated stories favoring Donald Trump were shared a total of 30 million times, nearly quadruple the number of pro-Hillary Clinton shares leading up to the election.”  Also, in November, researchers at Oxford University published a report based on analysis of 19.4 million Twitter posts from early November prior to the election.  The report found that an “automated army of pro-Trump chatbots overwhelmed Clinton bots five to one in the days leading up to the presidential election.”  In March 2017, former FBI agent Clint Watts told Congress about websites involved in the Russian disinformation campaign “some of which mysteriously operate from Eastern Europe and are curiously led by pro-Russian editors of unknown financing.”

The Orbis report also refers specifically to the aim of the Russian influence campaign “to swing supporters of Bernie Sanders away from Hillary Clinton and across to Trump,” based on information given to Steele in early August 2016. It was not until March 2017, however, that former director of the National Security Agency, retired Gen. Keith Alexander in Senate testimony said of the Russian influence campaign, “what they were trying to do is to drive a wedge within the Democratic Party between the Clinton group and the Sanders group.” A March 2017 news report also detailed that Sanders supporter’s social media sites were infiltrated by fake news, originating from “dubious websites and posters linked back to Eastern Europe,” that tried to shift them against Clinton during the general election. John Mattes, a former Senate investigator who helped run the online campaign for Sanders, said he was struck by Steele’s report. Mattes said, Steele “was writing in real time about things I was seeing happening in August, but I couldn’t articulate until September.” It is important to emphasize here that Steele’s source for the change in plan was “an ethnic Russian associate of Republican US presidential candidate Donald Trump [who] discussed the reaction inside his camp.”

A slew of other revelations has directly tied many of the key players in the Trump campaign – most notably Paul Manafort, Carter Page, Michael Cohen, and Michael Flynn – who are specifically mentioned in the Orbis reports to Russian officials also mentioned in the reports.  To take one example, the first report says that Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov was responsible for Russia’s compromising materials on Hillary Clinton, and now we have reports that Michael Cohen had contacted Peskov directly in January 2016 seeking help with a Trump business deal in Moscow (after Cohen received the email from Trump business associate Felix Sater saying “Our boy can become president of the USA and we can engineer it. I will get all of Putins team to buy in on this.”).  To take another example, the third Orbis report says that Trump campaign manager Paul Manafort was managing the connection with the Kremlin, and we now know that he was present at the June 9 2016 meeting with Donald Trump, Jr., Russian lawyer Natalia Veselnitskaya and Rinat Akhmetshin, who has reportedly boasted of his ties to ties and experience in Soviet intelligence and counterintelligence.  According to a recent New York Times story, “Akhmetshin told journalists that he was a longtime acquaintance of Paul J. Manafort.”

The Orbis reports chronicle, and subsequent events demonstrate, that the Russian effort evolved over time, adapting to changing circumstances.  When their attack seemed to be having an effect, they doubled down, and when it looked like negative media attention was benefiting Ms. Clinton, they changed tactics.  The Orbis reports detail internal Kremlin frictions between the participants as the summer wore on.  If the dossier is to be believed, the Russian effort may well have started as an anti-Clinton operation, and only became combined with the separate effort to cultivate the Trump team when it appeared Trump might win the nomination.  The Russian effort was aggressive over the summer months, but seemed to back off and go into cover-up mode following the Access Hollywood revelations and the Obama Administration’s acknowledgement of Russian interference in the fall, realizing they might have gone too far and possibly benefitted Ms. Clinton.  However, when Trump won, they changed again and engaged with Ambassador Kislyak in Washington to get in touch with others in the Trump transition team.  As this process unfolded, control of operation on the Russian side passed from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, to the FSB, and later to the Presidential Administration.  It should be noted in this context, that the much-reported meetings with Ambassador Kislyak do not seem to be tied to the conspiracy. He is not an intelligence officer, and would be in the position to offer advice on politics, personalities and political culture in the United States, but would not be asked to engage in espionage activity.  It is likewise notable that Ambassador Kislyak receives only a passing reference in the Steele dossier and only having to do with his internal advice on the political fallout in the U.S. in reaction to the Russian campaign.

Of course, to determine if collusion occurred as alleged in the dossier, we would have to know if the Trump campaign continued to meet with Russian representatives subsequent to the June meeting.  As mentioned, in February, the New York Times, CNN, and Reuters, reported that members of Trump’s campaign and other Trump associates had repeated contacts with senior Russian officials in the year before the election, according to current and former American officials.  Subsequent reports cite receipt of intelligence from European security agencies reporting on odd meetings between Trump associates and Russian officials in Europe.  And, perhaps the best clue that there might be something to the narrative of meetings in summer 2016 was former CIA Director John Brennan’s carefully chosen phrase in front of the Senate intelligence committee about the contacts – “frequently, people who go along a treasonous path do not know they are on a treasonous path until it is too late.”  This period will likely be the one most closely scrutinized by FBI investigators.

In retrospect, there is even some indication that the salacious sexual allegations should not be dismissed out of hand.  Efforts to monitor foreigners and develop compromising material is completely consistent with Russian M.O.  I am certain that they have terabytes of film and audio from inside my apartment in Moscow.  Putin himself is known to have been implicated in several sex stings to embarrass his rivals, to include the famous broadcast of a clandestinely-acquired sex video to shame then Prosecutor General Yuriy Skuratov.

Perhaps more intriguing, the most explosive charge in the Steele document was the claim that Trump hired prostitutes to defile a bed slept in by former President Obama.  The important factor to consider is that Trump did not engage with the prostitutes himself, but instead allegedly sought to denigrate Obama.  If there is anything consistent in what we have learned about President Trump, it seems that his policies are almost exclusively about overturning and eradicating anything related to President Obama’s tenure.  In this sense, he is akin to the ancient Pharaohs, Byzantine and Roman Emperors like Caligula, who sought to obliterate the existence of their predecessors, even destroying and defacing their images.  Is it inconceivable that he would get some satisfaction from a private shaming of the former President?

Separate Orbis reports also asserted that Trump himself engaged in unorthodox, perverted sexual behavior over the years that “has provided authorities with enough embarrassing and compromising material on the Republican presidential candidate to be able to blackmail him if they so wished.”  While it is not worth serious exploration, the notion that Trump might be involved with beautiful young women as alleged in the reports doesn’t seem to be much of a stretch.  His private life is well documented and litigated, such that it doesn’t seem wholly out-of-bounds to tie the reports about his activity in Russia with his history of undue interest in young women.  Again, there is no means to independently confirm the information and the media shouldn’t try.  An intelligence professional or investigator cannot shy away, however, and should try to ascribe some level of confidence in the information as part of the process of validating the various sources and the overall credibility of the reporting.  If the specific reports prove untrue, it would cast doubt on other reporting from that source.

In these cases, blackmail does not need to be overt to be useful.  Simple knowledge that a potential adversary might have compromising information can influence behavior.  Whether or not his subsequent behavior as a candidate and President is consistent with possible overt or subtle blackmail is beyond my ability to assess or the FBI’s ability to prove, and is instead for each citizen to ponder.  Suffice it to say that Trumps obsequiousness toward Putin, his continued cover-ups, and his irrational acquiescence to Russian interests, often in direct opposition to his own Administration and Party, keep the issue on the table.

On the other hand, there is also information in the Steele reports that appears wrong or questionable.  For example, the notion that Steele and his team could develop so many quality sources with direct access to discussions inside the Kremlin is worth serious skepticism.  The CIA and other professional intelligence services rarely developed this kind of access despite expending significant resources over decades, according to published accounts.  It is also hard to believe that Orbis could have four separate sources reporting on the incident at the Moscow hotel. The reputation of the elite hotel in the center of Moscow depends on the discretion of its staff, and crossing the FSB is not something taken lightly in Russian society.  A source that could be so easily identified would be putting themselves at significant risk.  Further, additional information in the reports cannot be checked without the tools of a professional investigative service.  Of course, since the dossier was leaked, and we do not have additional follow-up reports, we don’t know if Orbis would have developed other sources or revised their reporting accordingly as they were able to develop feedback.  We also don’t know if the 35 pages leaked by BuzzFeed is the entirety of the dossier.  I suspect not.

* * *

So, more than a year after the production of the original raw reports, where do we stand?

I think it is fair to say that the report is not “garbage” as several commentators claimed.  The Orbis sources certainly got some things right – details that they could not have known prior.  Steele and his company appear serious and credible.  Of course, the failure of the Trump team to report details that later leaked out and fit the narrative may make the Steele allegations appear more prescient than they otherwise might.  At the same time, the hesitancy to be honest about contacts with Russia is consistent with allegations of a conspiracy.

All that said, one large portion of the dossier is crystal clear, certain, consistent and corroborated.  Russia’s goal all along has been to do damage to America and our leadership role in the world.  Also, the methods described in the report fit the Russians to a tee.  If the remainder of the report is largely true, Russia has a powerful weapon to help achieve its goal.  Even if it is largely false, the Kremlin still benefits from the confusion, uncertainty and political churn created by the resulting fallout.  In any regard, the Administration could help cauterize the damage by being honest, transparent and assisting those looking into the matter.  Sadly, the President has done the opposite, ensuring a Russian win no matter what.  In any event, I would suspect the Russians will look to muddy the waters and spread false and misleading information to confuse investigators and public officials.

As things stand, both investigators and voters will have to examine the information in their possession and make sense of it as best they can. Professional investigators can marry the report with human and signals intelligence, they can look at call records, travel records, interview people mentioned in the report, solicit assistance from friendly foreign police and intelligence services, subpoena records and tie it to subsequent events that can shed light on the various details.  We, on the other hand, will have to do our best to validate the information at hand.  Looking at new information through the framework outlined in the Steele document is not a bad place to start.

Photo Credit: Associated Press

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Mystery death of ex-KGB chief linked to MI6 spy’s dossier on Donald Trump

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News’s YouTube Videos: Hacking Fears: Germany suspects Russia of meddling in upcoming election 

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Special counsel Robert Mueller and key congressional committees are tightening their focus on some of President Donald Trump’s family members and campaign associates as probes into Russia’s interference with the 2016 election enter a new and more aggressive phase.

Even fired FBI Director James Comey is aware that he may return to Capitol Hill to follow up on his explosive testimony from earlier this year, according to a source familiar with his thinking. Comey, who was dismissed by Trump in May, has not received a subpoena or any official indication he’ll be summoned to again testify.

Both Mueller and congressional investigators are also eager to learn more from the growing roster of recently departed White House staff, including former Chief of Staff Reince Priebus and strategist Stephen Bannon.

Interviews with more than a dozen lawyers and officials involved in aspects of the Russia probes hint at the intensity of what lies ahead in an investigation the president continues to rail against as “fake news” and a “witch hunt.”

That intensity is intended to put a strain on major characters as well as bit players who are under investigation, as they jockey for advantage and it becomes clearer who’s cooperating with investigators and who is resisting.

Read a QuickTake Q&A on the Trump-Russia saga

“In any criminal investigation it is in the government’s interest to magnify conflicts between the various people they’re looking at,” said Renato Mariotti, a former federal prosecutor who’s now a partner at Thompson Coburn LLC. “When the subjects of an investigation are pitted against each other the government can exploit those conflicts to induce some of the individuals to cooperate against others.”

Expanding Investigation

Although much of what Mueller is doing remains secret, there have been signs recently that his investigation is expanding, said two U.S. officials. That includes issuing subpoenas to a former lawyer and current public relations spokesman for Manafort, whose Virginia home was raided by the Federal Bureau of Investigation last month.

Manafort, who directed Trump’s campaign during six critical months last year, has emerged as a central figure because of his past financial dealings and his work for a Russian-backed party in Ukraine. Manafort’s financial transactions are also under scrutiny by New York’s attorney general, Politico reported Aug. 30, adding that the former campaign chairman hasn’t been accused of any wrongdoing.

Attorney General Jeff Sessions, who earned Trump’s ire when he recused himself from the Russia probe, is also expected to testify in the Senate in the coming weeks for the second time since his January confirmation hearing. While Sessions may want to focus on his anti-crime agenda, senators will demand details about his role in firing Comey, who had led the Russia probe.

‘Complex Crimes’

“The investigations are becoming more active,” Mariotti, who led prosecutions in a range of white-collar crimes including securities fraud and tax evasion, said in an interview. Mueller is “conducting an extremely thorough and wide-reaching investigation into what are complex crimes” while Congress is holding hearings and releasing details that Mueller might not, he added.

Mueller also will submit a list of his expenditures to the Justice Department soon after Sept. 30, which may provide insight into the scope of his investigation. The department is expected to make the document public.

Besides Manafort, one focus of investigators on Capitol Hill is the president’s eldest son.

Donald Trump Jr. has come under scrutiny for arranging a meeting in June 2016 with Russians who were promising damaging material on Trump’s rival, Hillary Clinton.

With congressional committees competing to hear from key witnesses, the Senate Judiciary Committee appears to be first in line to hear from Don Jr., though no firm date has been set.

Fusion GPS

“In late July, Donald Trump Jr. agreed to provide the Judiciary Committee with documents and a transcribed interview prior to a public hearing,” Judiciary Chairman Chuck Grassley and the panel’s top Democrat, Dianne Feinstein, said in a joint statement Aug. 29. “Shortly thereafter, a date for that interview was set and agreed to by both the committee and Trump Jr.”

The Judiciary Committee also might vote this month on whether to release a transcript from a 10-hour closed hearing in August with Glenn Simpson, founder of the political consulting firm Fusion GPS that helped create a dossier with salacious and unverified material about Trump.

“The committee has a transcript of the interview,” Simpson’s lawyer, Joshua Levy, said in a statement. “We are not permitted to have a copy. The committee has the right to disclose the transcript, if it wishes to do so.”

Russian Ambassador

The House Intelligence Committee issued subpoenas in June seeking testimony and documents from Trump’s personal attorney Michael Cohen, as well as Trump’s former national security adviser Michael Flynn. Flynn was removed after lying about communications he had with Russia’s then-ambassador to the U.S., Sergey Kislyak, before Trump took office.

Cohen has come under scrutiny because of allegations about him contained in the dossier linked to Fusion GPS and made public in January.

Cohen’s lawyer, Stephen Ryan, sent the House Intelligence Committee last month a point-by-point rebuttal of what he described as “sensational allegations” contained in the 35-page dossier. Ryan’s letter described that document’s allegations of ties between Cohen and Russian officials as false.

Cohen confirmed in an interview that he will testify before the House panel in September, after which he plans to testify before the Senate Intelligence Committee. He added that he hasn’t received any communication from Mueller and has not been asked to appear before a grand jury.

Trump’s son-in-law, Jared Kushner, was interviewed behind closed doors by the Senate and House intelligence committees, on July 24 and 25. Since then, Kushner hasn’t received any requests to testify in private or public before any congressional committee, according to a person with knowledge of the matter. He also hasn’t received any formal requests or subpoenas from Mueller’s team, the person said.

‘Not Normal Times’

But Democrats say they continue to focus on details surrounding a meeting Kushner had in December — a month before Trump took office — with Sergey Gorkov, the head of a Russian state-owned bank known as Vnesheconombank, according to Representative Adam Schiff, the intelligence panel’s top Democrat.

Schiff cited the bank’s “reported ties to the Kremlin, that the meeting was taken at the request of Russian Ambassador Kislyak, and that Gorkov is a graduate of the FSB’s finishing school,” a reference to Russia’s premier spy agency.

“These are not normal times and things are about to heat up” for Trump and his associates, said Jeffery Cramer, a former federal prosecutor. “The clock is ticking.”

— With assistance by Steven T. Dennis, and David Voreacos

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Vladimir Putin Calls For Russia to Sue US Over Diplomatic Spat – Newsweek

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Vladimir Putin Calls For Russia to Sue US Over Diplomatic Spat
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“Let us see how the situation develops further.” Russia continues to deny interference in the U.S.presidential election, despite the claim from U.S. intelligence agencies that Russian hackers instigated hacks on the Democratic Party. Several high 
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Trump family and associates to be in Russia probe crosshairs – The Seattle Times

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Trump family and associates to be in Russia probe crosshairs
The Seattle Times
As Congress returns to Washington, a web of President Donald Trump’s family and associates will be in the crosshairs of committees investigating whether his campaign colluded with Russia last year, as well as of the high-wattage legal team assembled by 

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Putin Says Russia May Order US To Cut Further Diplomatic Staff – RadioFreeEurope/RadioLiberty

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RadioFreeEurope/RadioLiberty
Putin Says Russia May Order US To Cut Further Diplomatic Staff
RadioFreeEurope/RadioLiberty
The U.S. intelligence community issued an assessment in January that Putin ordered an “influence campaign” targeting the U.S. election, with goals that included undermining trust in the U.S. electoral process and denigrating Trump’s Democratic rival 
‘People who mix up Australia and Austria’: Putin’s veiled attack on Trump over North KoreaNEWS.com.au

all 240 news articles »

Donald Trump ‘Not My Bride,’ Vladimir Putin Says – New York Times

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New York Times
Donald Trump ‘Not My Bride,’ Vladimir Putin Says
New York Times
MOSCOW — President Vladimir V. Putin seemed to be in top form during a news conference in China on Tuesday, answering a question about President Trump by saying the American leader is “not my bride, and I am not his groom.” While the comment …
Putin: President Trump Is ‘Not My Bride’Daily Beast
Putin says Trump ‘not my bride, and I’m not his groom’ABC News
Putin Says Trump’s ‘Not My Bride,’ But Still Hopes for DetenteBloomberg
Business Insider –The Moscow Times
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daca – Google Search

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Story image for daca from Los Angeles Times

Regardless of what President Trump does on DACA, these …

Los Angeles Times2 hours ago
As a DACA recipient, Buenrostro, 26, has a Social Security number and a work permit that he can renew every two years for about $500 a pop.
What you need to know about DACA
ABC News55 minutes ago
Trump has decided to end DACA, with 6-month delay
Highly CitedPoliticoSep 3, 2017
Trump Prepares to End DACA
FeaturedThe AtlanticSep 4, 2017
Obama Reportedly Plans to Speak Up if Trump Ends DACA
BlogSlate Magazine (blog)12 hours ago

John McCain and Director of National Intelligence Dan Coats spotted together abroad 

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What happens when a powerful United States Senator, known for his trips overseas to conduct clandestine business, is spotted abroad alongside the U.S. Director of National Intelligence? At the least, it gets people talking. That’s the case now that John McCain and Daniel Coats have been spotted – of all things – taking a boat ride together in Italy.

When it comes to official explanations, there’s a perfectly good reason for McCain to be there: he’s attending a high profile international forum while the Senate is recess, according to the Associated Press via the Washington Post (link). But see, the Senate is actually not in recess, because Senators left it technically in session when they most recently headed out of town so that Donald Trump couldn’t start firing and replacing cabinet members. And that context is part of what adds intrigue to the matter.

John McCain once secretly traveled to Syria to meet with the rebels there, without bothering to tell anyone – even President Obama – that he was doing so. After the most recent election, McCain also secretly sent an envoy to Europe to pick up a copy of the now-infamous Trump Russia dossier, which detailed everything from election collusion to the Pee Pee Tape. Any time Senator McCain travels abroad, or sends someone abroad, it always raises eyebrows. Considering the current chaos with Trump and his scandals, it sets off even more alarms.

Come to think of it, just why is the Director of National Intelligence meeting up with John McCain in Italy? Why does McCain consider this particular conference to be so important that he’s traveled to it in the midst of punishing brain cancer treatment? Dan Coats and McCain are old buddies from when they were in the Senate together. Maybe they were merely using that boat ride to catch up. Or just maybe – as has so often turned out to be the case – McCain is working on something under the radar. We’ll see.

The post John McCain and Director of National Intelligence Dan Coats spotted together abroadappeared first on Palmer Report.

Putin: “Trump’s not my bride & I’m not his groom” – YouTube

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putin and trump are bride and groom – Google Search

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Story image for putin and trump are bride and groom from Bloomberg

Bloomberg

Putin says Trump ‘not my bride, and I’m not his groom

Washington Post3 hours ago
MOSCOW — Russian President Vladimir Putin has refrained from making any criticism of U.S. President Donald Trump. Speaking at a news …
Putin Says Trump Is Not His Wife
InternationalThe Moscow Times2 hours ago

Trump Confronts Accelerating Russia Probes on Multiple Fronts – Bloomberg

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Bloomberg
Trump Confronts Accelerating Russia Probes on Multiple Fronts
Bloomberg
“The investigations are becoming more active,” Mariotti, who led prosecutions in a range of white-collar crimes including securities fraud and tax evasion, said in an interview. Mueller is “conducting an extremely thorough and wide-reaching 
As Mueller deepens Trump-Russia probe, congressional investigators face obstaclesMcClatchy Washington Bureau
Investigation into possible Trump-Russia collusion not enough to warrant impeachmentUND The Dakota Student
Trump Watch: Now We Pause for a Word from the IRSCity Watch
Lawfare (blog)
all 17 news articles »

Trump family and associates to be in Russia probe crosshairs – San Francisco Chronicle

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San Francisco Chronicle
Trump family and associates to be in Russia probe crosshairs
San Francisco Chronicle
FILE – In this June 21, 2017, file photo, special counsel Robert Mueller departs after a closed-door meeting with members of the Senate Judiciary Committee about Russian meddling in the election and possible connection to the Trump campaign, at the 

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Putin: Russia Reserves Right to Further Cut US Diplomatic Mission – U.S. News & World Report

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U.S. News & World Report
Putin: Russia Reserves Right to Further Cut US Diplomatic Mission
U.S. News & World Report
XIAMEN, China (Reuters) – Russia reserves the right to further cut the number of U.S. diplomatic staff in Moscow, Russian President Vladimir Putin said on Tuesday, in response to what he called Washington’s “boorish” treatment of Russia’s diplomatic 
Putin Says Russia May Order US To Cut Further Diplomatic StaffRadioFreeEurope/RadioLiberty
Vladimir Putin Calls For Russia to Sue US Over Diplomatic SpatNewsweek
Russia reserves right to further cut US diplomatic mission: PutinChannel NewsAsia
The Moscow Times
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Key Trump Aide’s Departure Rattles President’s Allies – Bloomberg

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Bloomberg
Key Trump Aide’s Departure Rattles President’s Allies
Bloomberg
President Donald Trump’s allies are worried that the most damaging of the many recent departures from his White House may be that of Keith Schiller, a little-known former bodyguard who’s one of the president’s closest confidants outside his family 
Trump’s bodyguard becomes his long lost palAxios

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America’s Political Scientists Come in for a Reckoning – POLITICO Magazine

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POLITICO Magazine
America’s Political Scientists Come in for a Reckoning
POLITICO Magazine
In hundreds of different presentations, many though not all explicitly about Trump, political scientists debated the causes and effects of the 2016 election, offering a window into how the Ivory Tower is reckoning with America’s new political reality 

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Traces of Crime: How New York’s DNA Techniques Became Tainted 

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Evidence is examined at the DNA laboratory in the office of New York City’s chief medical examiner. Two DNA analysis methods — high-sensitivity testing and the Forensic Statistical Tool, or FST — have been discarded amid questions about the accuracy of their results.

The New York Daily News Is Said to Be Nearing Sale

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The paper’s owner, Mortimer Zuckerman, will sell it to Tronc, the publisher of The Los Angeles Times and The Chicago Tribune, according to people briefed on the talks.

Russian official discusses releasing blackmail material on Donald Trump 

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Now that Donald Trump has permanently failed to lift U.S. sanctions against Russia, and he’s turned out to be every bit as erratic as cynics had predicted, Vladimir Putin appears to be leaning toward deciding that his puppet Trump is now more trouble than he’s worth. Russian officials are increasingly speaking out against Trump, even taunting him. Now one of them is talking outright about releasing blackmail material that would destroy Trump.

During a debate on Russian state-run television, a number of Russian officials discussed various political issues. One of those officials was Nikita Isaev, the Director of the Russian Institute of Contemporary Economics. Translated into English, he said “Let’s hit Trump with our Kompromat!” This is a clear reference to the Pee Pee Tape or some other similar blackmail material that the Kremlin has long been alleged to be holding over Trump’s head. The host asked, “Do we have it?” Isaev responded “Of course we have it!”

The hour long Russian-language video can be watched here if you so choose, and Julia Davis was the one who identified Nikita Isaev’s call for the release of Kompromat. It’s difficult to imagine someone in Isaev’s position saying such a thing on Kremlin-controlled television unless he had Vladimir Putin’s blessing to say it.

This means we are now at a point where Putin is threatening or taunting Donald Trump by having a Russian official openly threaten to release blackmail on him on national television. This comes shortly after Maria Zakharova from the Russian Ministry of Foreign Affairs suggested that Trump may not get to finish out his term (link). As the United States continues to investigate Trump’s Russia scandal, the revelations that surface will only get problematic for the Kremlin. Putin could be leaning toward finishing off Trump in the hope of stopping the bleeding in that regard.

The post Russian official discusses releasing blackmail material on Donald Trump appeared first on Palmer Report.

Hurricane Irma forecast targets U.S. coast – The Washington Post

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Former CIA chief Michael Morell says US faces two options on North Korea – CBS News

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CBS News
Former CIA chief Michael Morell says US faces two options on North Korea
CBS News
CBS News senior national security contributor and former acting and deputy director of the CIA, Michael Morell, told “CBS This Morning” that the U.S. faces two choices on North Korea. “One is a military attack with devastating consequences and no 

America’s most infamous illegal immigrant: Donald Trump’s wife 

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Last night Donald Trump decided to ruin the lives of eight hundred thousand innocent Americans who merely committed the “crime” of having been brought here as children by their parents. He’s previously endorsed a plan to place overall limits on immigration as well. He wants to build a wall to stop imaginary “Mexican rapists” from entering the country. But if Trump wants to begin kicking illegal immigrants out of the country, he’ll have to start with Melania.

Shortly before election day it was revealed that when Melania Trump first entered the United States, she illegally performed modeling work in violation of the U.S. visa program (link). The timing of the story, and Donald Trump’s shockingly illegitimate election “victory” a few days later, prevented the scandal from ever coming front and center. But the cold hard reality is that Melania came to the United States illegally, began working illegally, and just sort of stayed here, eventually becoming a U.S. citizen. But by her husband’s definition, she’s technically an illegal immigrant who needs to be sent home.

Melania Trump hasn’t committed any crimes since that time. She’s not guilty of any of the xenophobic stereotypes that Donald Trump has routinely and falsely hurled at immigrants during his time in politics. No one on any side of the political divide truly believes that someone like Melania should be deported simply because she came to the U.S. and began working here in undocumented fashion twenty years ago. In fact, aside from the part where she married a career criminal like Donald Trump, her story is more or less how immigration – documented or undocumented – is supposed to work.

Yet Donald Trump continues to demonize and torture immigrants, simply because he’s a sadist who enjoys pandering to racists. Considering he married an immigrant who came here and began working illegally, he’s also a hypocrite. Before he deports the DREAMers, let him deport Melania first.

The post America’s most infamous illegal immigrant: Donald Trump’s wife appeared first on Palmer Report.

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Russia is at a dead end. It is vital that it not drag the rest of the world down… – by Andrei A.Kovalev wwtimes.com/2017/09/03/rus… 

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Russia is at a dead end. It is vital that it not drag the rest of the world down… – by Andrei A.Kovalev wwtimes.com/2017/09/03/rus…


Posted by  mikenov on Sunday, September 3rd, 2017 12:51pm

10:32 AM 9/3/2017 – U.S. says Russian relationship in downward spiral 

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So much aid poured in after Katrina that we didn’t know what to do with most of it. What about this time?

So much aid poured in after Katrina that we didn’t know what to do with most of it. What about this time?Opinion: Can an America First nation get the worlds help after Harvey?

Natural disasters know no political boundaries. And thats why international humanitarian relief flows so quickly, and in such great and humbling quantities, when hurricanes, earthquakes and tsunamis strike.
That stay would be temporary, since their work permits will not be renewed.