Russia Didn't Interfere In U.S. Election To Help Trump, But To Destabilize America
By Paul Roderick Gregory
Published Jewish World Review July 18, 2017
Read more at http://jewishworldreview.com/0717/gregory071817.php3#8eDJ1rSAbOls7ujy.99
A still unidentified Democratic Party donor paid for the factually challenged dossier that almost sunk the Donald Trump campaign. The dossier was created (and perhaps written) with the support and assistance of unregistered foreign agents of the Russian government, according to the Senate Judiciary Committee. The offer by an obscure music publicist to Donald Trump Jr. to share compromising information on the Clinton campaign was, as will be shown below, most likely a Russian operation. I conclude that Russia's interference in the 2016 election was not to help Trump but to throw the American political system into chaos and threaten its foundations.
Russia boasts one of the most effective and ruthless political operations in Washington. A flamboyant man-about-town ambassador sits at the top hobnobbing with the American political aristocracy. Russia's diplomats, spies, and PR experts lobby Russian interests and recruit the powerhouses of American political influence to plead their cases and use hired guns to sling dirt and promote "disinformation" about opponents.
Russia's "Magnitsky gang" was formed to get rid of the Magnitsky sanctions imposed by Congress in 2012. Russian lawyer Sergey Magnitsky represented Hermitage Capital (once the largest investor in Russia and a major holder of Yukos stock). He died in a Russian prison after being denied medical attention, provoking US sanctions. An irate Vladimir Putin retaliated by closing down American adoptions of Russian children.
The Magnitsky gang includes a "former" GRU spy, Rinat Akhmetshin, a Kremlin-connected lawyer, Natalia Veselnitskaya, Anatoly Samochornov, Andrei Nekrasov and other Russian nationals. They hire American lobbyists and PR firms to represent Russian interests. They gather and disseminate "fake news" about Magnitsky and his boss, William Browder, including producing a distorted documentary. None have signed FARA documents as Foreign Agents of Russia. Instead, they claim to represent charitable non-profit organizations registered in the United States.
With the U.S. election pending, members of the Magnitsky gang expanded their portfolio to include meddling in the election. Using funds donated by a still-unnamed Democrat donor, Akhmetshin hired a US opposition research firm, Fusion GPS, to dig up dirt on candidate Trump. Fusion GPS hired a London intelligence firm, Orbis, headed by former British spy, Christopher Steele. Steele was tasked with using his Russian contacts to gather compromising information on Trump. Fusion and Orbis were not new to each other. They had worked together since January 2010, as their contract agreement shows.
Orbis produced reports between June and end of October 2016 in the form of a dossier that accused Trump and his associates of financial, political, and sexual misdeeds in Russia. These reports were supposedly gathered from sources at high levels of the Russian government. Orbis brought the dossier to the attention Senator John McCain, while Fusion briefed the US media on its contents. The dossier was passed on to the FBI, which may have asked Steele to continue his investigation. Although the Orbis dossier has been discredited due to numerous errors and mind-boggling claims, the Clinton campaign cited the dossier as the motivation for Trump's purported favoring of Russia.
We hopefully will learn more about the Steele dossier from a defamation suit which is currently being litigated in a British court and about the Fusion GPS operation which is being probed by the Grassley-Feinstein Senate Judiciary Committee. Grassley wishes to know why Fusion GPS, as an unregistered Foreign Agent of Russia, was a principal in the creation of the anti-Trump dossier.
Both Fusion GPS and Orbis are dodging answers by citing confidentiality agreements and claiming attorney-client privilege although neither is a law firm. The secret that Steele and Fusion seem most reluctant to disclose is the identity of the Democrat donor, despite demands for answers from the British court and the senate committee. Is the "client" someone close to the Clinton campaign?
Besides its work on Magnitsky sanctions and the Trump dossier, the busy Magnitsky gang penetrated the Trump campaign on June 9, when one of its principals, lawyer Natalia Veselnitskaya, met with Donald Trump Jr. and other campaign personnel in Trump Tower. The meeting was organized by Trump Jr. through a June 3 e-mail chain with an English music publicist. The publicist relayed a message from a Russian rock star (known to the Trump family) that "the Russian Crown Court" (there is no such thing) was prepared to supply the Trump campaign with incriminating information on Hillary Clinton as a gesture that Russia was on Trump's side in the election.
In the short June 9 meeting, Veselnitskaya disclosed no incriminating information on Hillary Clinton but talked instead about the Magnitsky adoption issue. When news of the meeting broke more than a year later, Veselnitskaya claimed no association with Russian agencies, but her claims are easily disproved through her Magnitsky work and her lobbying for suspected Russian money launderers.
The US and world press are celebrating the aborted meeting as proof of the Trump campaign's collusion with Russia. More sympathetic media outlets call the Trump Jr. fiasco a farce or argue that Trump Jr. was set up.
In my personal view, the whole story smells of a Russian planned operation that required a political novice on the receiving end. Is it credible to think that Russia's holding of top-secret Hillary Clinton information (perhaps from hacked "personal" e-mails) would be made known to a Russian rock star to pass on to the campaign of a US presidential candidate? Simple logic tells us that this meeting was not intended by the Russian side to be helpful to the Trump campaign. The disclosure of such an e-mail chain could be used either to harm the Trump campaign or come back to haunt him during his presidency.
The proof that this was not a keystone cops operation by Trump Jr. and an obscure music publicist is that a leading member of the Russian Magnitsky team actually showed up for the meeting and was in the loop. The goal of the Trump Tower meeting was not to gain the ear of the Trump campaign. Accounts of Russian lobbying against the Magnitsky sanctions suggest that Russian agents can organize meetings without such ruses.
The combination of the Steele Dossier and the Trump Jr. trap refutes the narrative that Russia was helping the Trump campaign. The Steele dossier was clearly a major hit on Trump designed to destroy his presidential campaign. It appears to have been funded by an unnamed Clinton ally and carried out by an unregistered Foreign Agent of Russia.
If the Steele dossier is to be believed, such information could only have come from the highest levels of Russian government. Why should officials with fly-on-the-wall knowledge of the Kremlin reveal their information to Steele, if not told to do so by the Kremlin? Given its numerous mistakes and unbelievable claims, a more likely explanation is that the dossier was created by disinformation specialists of Russian intelligence as postulated by Russian expert David Satter. Given its funding and the role of Fusion GPS, the dossier appears to be a joint product of the Russian government and at least some elements of the Clinton campaign. Once the dossier was in their and media hands, Clinton supporters and a supportive media did not hesitate to spread this information far and wide.
Some may say that the Trump Jr. affair was a harmless ruse to give a trusted representative of the Magnitsky gang a chance to make her case against the sanctions to Trump insiders. I consider this explanation wanting. The gang knew that the meeting was set up to talk about compromising material they did not have. As sophisticates in American politics, surely they would understand that this would be their first and last meeting. No, the real reason was to get on record that Trump Jr. took a meeting with Russian representatives promising the goods on Hillary. If so, this becomes a case of setting up Trump Jr. for the eventual revelation of such a meeting. It is impossible to interpret the Trump Jr. affair as a positive move by Russia in favor of the Trump campaign - as it is now being played in the mainstream media.
We have reached the stage I warned about three months back. Vladimir Putin is now in a position to destroy the Trump presidency and wreak untold havoc on the American political system. His disinformation specialists can make up virtually any story they wish of Trump's cooperation with Russia, and the anti-Trump media will accept it as gospel truth. Putin will get his wish of a weakened and embattled American president and an American political system in paralysis. He will continue to feed the story to make sure no resolution is possible.
The ironical outcome is that the real collusion may be between the enemies of Trump making an alliance with Putin to weaken their own country, all in order to overturn an election outcome they despise.
• 06/13/17 Three Overlooked Statements By Comey That Blow Apart The Russian Collusion Narrative
• 06/21/17 Is Russiagate Really Hillarygate?
Paul Roderick Gregory is a fellow at the Hoover Institution, at Stanford, and energy fellow and Cullen Professor of Economics at the University of Houston. I am also a research professor at the German Institute for Economic Research Berlin. My specialties are Russia and Comparative Economics, and I am adding China to my portfolio. I have written more than 20 books on economics, Russia and comparative economics.