Hardly a day goes by without President Trump attacking Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s year-old investigation into contacts between his presidential campaign and Russia. The president has presented no explanation for why his campaign had so many contacts with Russian operatives. Instead, he appears to be betting his presidency on his ability to frame the entire investigation as a hoax and confuse us about the facts. Here’s a guide for the perplexed:
Former FBI Director James B. Comey Jr. has been making the rounds with the stunning observation that President Donald J. Trump behaved much liked the mob bosses he put on trial in his days as a federal prosecutor in Manhattan.
During his time in the White House, Comey says he felt the president repeatedly trying to make him a member of his corrupted inner circle when he famously asked the FBI director for loyalty.
In his last conversation with Comey on April 11, Trump told him: “I have been very loyal to you, very loyal, we had that thing, you know.” We had that thing. That thing of ours. It’s literally a translation of La Cosa Nostra, which is how members of the American Mafia describe their organization.
Comey tells us a fundamental truth about the man we have elected to the most powerful office in the world: Donald Trump was a mob-friendly businessman.
This was raised during the Senate testimony of Glenn Simpson of Fusion GPS, the ex-journalist who hired former British spy Christopher Steele. Simpson was being pressed about his sources when his lawyer, Josh Levy, blurted out, “Somebody’s already been killed as a result of the publication of this dossier and no harm should come to anybody related to this honest work.”
In his subsequent testimony to the House intelligence committee, Simpson denied knowing specific cases of people being killed because of the dossier, but he then noted that “people literally risked their lives to tell us some of this stuff.”
One who may have risked everything was FSB General Oleg Erovinkin. He was right-hand man to Igor Sechin, who was in turn Putin’s right-hand man. He was known as the “keeper of the Kremlin’s secrets. Erovinkin was found dead in his car in Central Moscow in December 2016.
Erovinkin, as chief administrator at Rosneft, was Sechin’s right-hand man and must have known everything about Sechin’s contacts with Americans. Those included the former head of ExxonMobil, now Secretary of State Rex Tillerson. (Sechin once said he felt thwarted by U.S.-imposed sanctions that kept him from riding motorcycles in America with his friend Tillerson.)
More importantly, in terms of allegations made by the Steele dossier and currently the focus of multiple investigations in Washington, Erovinkin was in a position to keep track of contacts with Trump advisers in considerable detail.
Let me add that Amy is no slouch. She is considered one of the foremost experts on the KGB, speaks Russian, writes regularly for the New York Review of Books and authored numerous books, the most recent of which is an exploration of political murder by the Putin Regime called Orders to Kill. (I still would love to do a Q&A with you, Amy!)
Glad to see a Trump-Russia story written by someone who knows what she’s talking about.
Well, it took a couple of days, but I finally managed to read through Fusion GPS co-founder Glenn Simpson’s 312-page testimony to the Senate Judiciary Committee.
Thank you to Sen. Dianne Feinstein for releasing this information last week over the objections of Republicans. Sen. Feinstein said the American public deserve to make up their own minds. Couldn’t agree more. You can find the testimony here.
So I thought I would pick things that jumped out at me from Simpson’s testimony:
1. An internal source in the Trump Organization was providing the FBI with information about Russian collusion.
Simpson learned this from Christopher Steele, the former British spy he had hired to investigate Trump’s links to Russia. Steele’s findings, including the scandalous scene in the Moscow Ritz, were so alarming that he took his findings to the FBI. The FBI told Steele, yes, we’ve heard something similar from our internal Trump source. Simpson refused to answer questions about who this source might have been, but this source was not one of Steele’s source. Huge bombshell. (p. 175)
2. Someone has been killed as a result of Steele’s reports.
Simpson’s lawyer, Josh Levy, drops this on p. 279. “Somebody’s already been killed as a result of the publication of this dossier and no harm should come to anybody related to this honest work,” he says. Curiously, nobody challenges this, which makes it seem an accepted fact. Maybe they were all just tired after 9 hours of questioning. The person is not named, but presumably it’s someone in Russia. Otherwise, it would be a bigger deal, right?
3. Felix Sater is connected to Russian organized crime kingpin Semion Mogilevich This connection has been alleged in a Supreme Court petition filed in 2012 by lawyers Fred Oberlander and Richard Lerner to unseal Sater’s criminal case. The Website Deep Capture made the same claim, but the sourcing wasn’t very strong, as did two New York attorneys in court filings. (Update: Sources I’ve spoken to led me to doubt this claim.) (p.69)
4. Chris Steele broke off talks with the FBI in part because of a story in The New York Times. This was the infamous Halloween 2016 story that reported that an FBI investigation of Trump found no ties to Russia. The Times story and FBI Director James Comey’s bizarre decision to reopen the investigation of Hillary Clinton’s email made Steele concerned that the FBI was being manipulated for political ends by Trump’s people. (p. 178).
5. Bill Browder’s comical efforts to hide from Fusion GPS and Glenn Simpson.
This isn’t a single event. It’s more like a pattern. Maybe Simpson is a liar as Browder says or maybe Browder doesn’t like anybody nosing around in his business practices in Russia. Read it for yourself and see what you think pp 40-48.