Implausible deniability

Plausible deniability is the ability of people (typically senior officials in a formal or informal chain of command) to deny knowledge of or responsibility for any damnable actions committed by others in an organizational hierarchy because of a lack of evidence that can confirm their participation, even if they were personally involved in or at least willfully ignorant of the actions. In the case that illegal or otherwise disreputable and unpopular activities become public, high-ranking officials may deny any awareness of such acts to insulate themselves and shift blame onto the agents who carried out the acts, as they are confident that their doubters will be unable to prove otherwise. The lack of evidence to the contrary ostensibly makes the denial plausible, that is, credible, although sometimes it merely makes it unactionable. The term typically implies forethought, such as intentionally setting up the conditions to plausibly avoid responsibility for one’s (future) actions or knowledge. In some organizations, legal doctrines such as command responsibility exist to hold major parties responsible for the actions of subordinates involved in heinous acts and nullify any legal protection that their denial of involvement would carry.

Ivanka Trump helped make her father’s first international hotel venture a success with the help of an alleged international fraudster with ties to money launderers and criminals from the former Soviet Union.

A joint report between Reuters and NBC News examined the Trump Ocean Club International Hotel and Tower in Panama, which includes residential apartments and a casino in one of the tallest buildings in Latin America.

President Donald Trump’s daughter worked with Alexandre Ventura Nogueira, a 43-year-old Brazilian who was arrested three years later by Panamanian authorities on charges of fraud and forgery unrelated to the Trump project.

He later fled the country after his release on $1.4 million bail.

Nogueira and his company, Homes Real Estate Investment & Services, was responsible for up to half of the advance 666 apartment sales, according to Reuters.

The joint Reuters-NBC News report found Nogueira did business with a Colombian who was later convicted of money laundering and is now jailed in the United States, a Russian investor in the Trump tower jailed in Israel in the 1990s for kidnapping and death threats, and a Ukrainian investor arrested for alleged human trafficking while working with Nogueira and later convicted in Ukraine.

https://www.rawstory.com/2017/11/ivanka-filled-trumps-panama-tower-with-the-help-of-fraudster-with-ties-to-russian-money-launderers/

Watch the in-depth report tonight: Richard Engel on Assignment

LIVE TONIGHT, 6:00 PM ON MSNBC

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Russians here and Russians there, more confirmation of the Steele dossier

Carter Page’s bizarre testimony before the House Intelligence Committee supported some key elements of the infamous dossier compiled by a former British spy.

The former foreign policy advisor to the Trump campaign told lawmakers last week about his visits to Russia before and after the election, when he met with government and business leaders, reported Business Insider.

Page confirmed he had emailed campaign adviser J.D. Gordon July 8, 2016, from Moscow — on a trip approved by former campaign manager Corey Lewandowski — to say he had gotten “incredible insights and outreach from a few Russian legislators and senior members of the presidential administration here.”

That seems to confirm findings by former British spy Christopher Steele, who reported in his dossier that “official close to Presidential Administration Head, S. Ivanov, confided in a compatriot that a senior colleague in the Internal Political Department of the PA, Divyekin (nfd) also had met secretly with Page on his recent visit.”

According to Steele’s source, Diveykin told Page the Kremlin had damaging information on Hillary Clinton that they wanted to turn over to the Trump campaign.

Page denied meeting with Diveykin and told the committee that “senior members of the presidential administration,” as described in his email, was actually just a brief chat with deputy Prime Minister Arkadiy Dvorkovich.

He also claimed his reference to legislators meant only a few people shaking his hands in passing during the trip.

Page also confirmed that he “possibly” had contacted the head of investor relations at the Russian oil company Rosneft in advance of his July 2016 visit.

Rep. Adam Schiff (D-CA), the committee’s ranking Democrat, pointed out that Rosneft’s CEO, Igor Sechin, was under U.S. sanctions as part of the Magnitsky Act.

A U.S. intelligence source claimed in September 2016 that Page met with Sechin, who raised the issue of lifting those sanctions after the election.

A Russian source told Steele that Sechin and Page held a secret meeting to discuss “the issues of future bilateral energy cooperation and prospects for an associated move to lift Ukraine-related western sanctions against Russia.”

Steele alleged that Sechin offered Page the brokerage of a 19 percent stake in Rosneft in exchange for getting U.S. sanctions lifted against oligarchs close to Russian president Vladmir Putin.

Page denied “directly” expressing support for lifting sanctions, but he admitted

that Andrey Baranov, the head of investor relations, “may have briefly mentioned” the sale of a significant percentage of Rosneft in July.

A 19.5 percent stake in Rosneft changed hands in December under mysterious circumstances, and Page returned to Moscow the day after the deal was signed to meet with “some top managers” at the company.

He has denied meeting with Sechin while there, but agrees it would have been “a great honor.”

also

J.D. Gordon Quote from NBC news “ I discouraged Carter from taking the trip to Moscow in the first place because it was a bad idea. Since I refused to forward his speech request form for approval, he eventually went around me directly to campaign leadership

Former EPD Chief Mills takes his war on the poor to Santa Cruz

Like Trump and most demigods they need a scapegoat. During the ongoing crime wave in Eureka Mills found a convenient scapegoat with “the homeless”. It would seem he hasn’t changed tactics at his new job.

A woman uses the hand-washing station next to a port-a-potty in San Lorenzo Park on Monday. The city of Santa Cruz is adding stations to address the statewide hepatitis A emergency. (Dan Coyro — Santa Cruz Sentinel)

SANTA CRUZ >> Under the auspices of its new chief, the Santa Cruz Police Department has launched a new approach to homelessness and outdoor sleeping.

In an opinion piece penned for the Sentinel Sunday, Chief Andy Mills revealed his intentions to de-emphasize enforcement of the city’s overnight public camping ban.

“From 9 p.m. until 6 a.m., SCPD will not issue camping citations unless there is a complaint by someone in control of that property or some other crime or nuisance behavior is taking place,” Mills wrote. “Instead, the police will turn their focus to finding those stealing out of your yards, cars and homes during the night.”

In an interview Monday, Mills tempered the reduced focus on enforcing overnight camping laws, saying “unacceptable behavior is unacceptable everywhere.”

“I honestly believe that people need to sleep and that people are healthier when they get sleep, they can make better decisions when they get sleep. If at some point in the future, we can have a place where people can go and sleep lawfully, I think that makes great sense,” Mills said. “At the same time, this gives us the opportunity to say, we can’t enforce this rigorously when there aren’t enough beds or even close to it for people to sleep. But I want to re-emphasize that bad behavior is bad behavior, regardless of whether you’re housed or unhoused.”

The chief’s op-ed was published just days after his officers used “personal persuasion rather than positional power” to clear out what he estimated was about a dozen people regularly sleeping along the chain-link fencing outside the downtown post office. Mills said the familiar faces were offered supportive services, such as motel vouchers and mental health services, in the days leading up to the clear-out. The operation was scheduled for Monday, but was moved up after officers reported witnessing “gigantic rats that are crawling in and out of sleeping bags” and had become “unhealthy and unsafe,” Mills said.

“The post office has become such a focal point for many people in the city that we really needed to act on it,” said Mills, adding that the effort was just one piece of longer-term efforts.

A proposal to lift the city’s overnight camping ban in March 2016, led by then-Councilman Don Lane, failed in a 5-2 vote. With passionate community members arguing for and against the idea at the time, opposing council members questioned the long-term benefits of permitting unsheltered sleeping. Councilwoman Richelle Noroyan said at the time the ban was not just about sleeping, but about public health.

“It’s about urinating and defecating and people finding needles in their front yards and people contacting me by the dozens saying they don’t even like to go in their back yards,” Noroyan said.

Vice Mayor David Terrazas said during the same 2016 meeting that the proposal “does not provide the types of solutions that lead to that lasting change.” On Monday, reached for comment on Mills’ plan of action, Terrazas said the sleeping ban was still in effect and that he supports the chief in coming forward with a larger strategy to address a “crisis downtown.”

“I look at this as a very narrow action in regard to a larger comprehensive strategy to better connect those in the greatest of need to services,” Terrazas said, when asked if this may be a precursor to ultimately lifting the camping ban.

“I think we as a council have unanimously approved a subcommittee’s recommendations addressing homelessness in our region and currently are working with Santa Cruz County officials to implement that plan. So we’re not just looking at this as limited to just whether or not someone has any sort of violation of our ordinance, but in regards to how we expand how we are addressing this situation.”

Mills said he has received several community responses and recommendations since his letter was published. Homelessness issues advocate Steve Pleich shared with the Sentinel a “homeless depot shelter” concept he penned with Rabbi Philip Posner and John Kevin Rothwell that would designate legal public sleeping times and location.

In his op-ed, Mills termed the post office encampment as “ground zero” for the local hepatitis A outbreak. Santa Cruz County spokesman Jason Hoppin stepped back from that statement, saying the city has had a concentration of confirmed patients in the downtown, but that the county has not linked the cases specifically to the post office dwellers.

“There really isn’t an epicenter or a ‘big bang,’” Hoppin said. “We have a concentration of cases downtown, but it’s a sanitation issue, mainly. People need clean places to go to the bathroom and eat.”

The intensified interest on the downtown encampment is the latest city effort to break up larger areas of visible outdoor homeless gatherings, and is tied in with a hepatitis A outbreak numbering 73 confirmed cases countywide. Hoppin said there is not a “huge risk” to the general population of contracting the disease.

Instead, the liver-related illness, spread by contact with feces of people who are infected or from contaminated food or water, has disproportionately affected Santa Cruz County’s homeless and drug-using population, he said. The number of people infected with the disease who do not fit that description “can be counted on one hand,” Hoppin said.

Some of those without homes displaced from the post office were later seen relocating to the San Lorenzo Park “benchlands,” Mills said.

Similar city-led homeless encampment dispersals in the recent past have included large gatherings around Santa Cruz City Hall and the Downtown Santa Cruz Public Library due to negative public interactions, heavy restrictions along the San Lorenzo River levees after the Aug. 23, 2016 fatal shooting of Joey Shuemaker and numerous clearings of encampments in the Pogonip in recent years.

http://www.santacruzsentinel.com/social-affairs/20171016/santa-cruz-police-chief-displaces-homeless-by-post-office-softens-sleeping-ban

Experts warn Trump’s demagoguery and bile and have created a resurgent neo-Nazi movement

Americans should be concerned about “daring” actions by white supremacists inspired by the “bile” of President Donald Trump’s rhetoric and the Civil War brewing in the Republican Party, according to two experts on white supremacism.

British scholars Clive Webb and Robert Cook, of the University of Sussex, sounded the alarm about the “resurgent” neo-Nazi movement in the latest episode of the university’s Trump Watch podcast.

“The far-right is resurgent … with a president that espouses demagoguery and bile,” said Webb, a historian of white supremacist movements. “That can only serve to energize the far right … making it more daring in its actions.”

This rise of white supremacist movements comes as a “war for the soul of the Republican Party” is brewing in the GOP, added Cook, an expert in the Civil War.

“In the months to come, we will see Trump siding with the opponents of the Republican mainstream and white supremacist rhetoric will undoubtedly play a very, very important role in those efforts on the part of the president,” Cook said. “The president of the United States is giving at least implicit sanction to the conduct of people who should be far beyond the political pale.”

Early this month, Trump’s former White House Chief Strategist Steve Bannon, who has returned to head Breitbart news, said he is targeting at least 15 establishment Republicans to replace them in the 2018 primaries with hard-right candidates who are loyal to Trump.

It all comes as the alt-right is on the march and emboldened. One peaceful counter-protester was killed at the “Unite the Right” rally in Charlottesville, Virginia, in August by a car police said was driven by a white supremacist.

Former KKK leader David Duke said he was at the rally to “fulfill the promise of Donald Trump.” During his 2016 campaign, Trump promised to crack down on illegal immigration and expel Muslims from the U.S.

Trump’s equivocation in condemning the white supremacists drew condemnation from both Republicans and Democrats. The president blamed “both sides” for the violence — a comment that was praised by white supremacists.

With Trump in the White House, it “is an alarming situation in terms of how daring the actions of the far-right will become in the years immediately ahead,” Webb said.

The Southern Poverty Law Center, which tracks hate groups in the U.S., calculates there are roughly 900 hate groups operating in America today. The group’s research shows hate groups grew 17 percent from 784 in 2014 to 917 in 2016. And attacks against Muslims are up dramatically since Trump became a candidate in 2015.

These groups, said Webb, are gaining more influence, not only through Trump, but “through the power of social media” and hard-right media outlets like Breitbart.

In the meantime, elected officials try to douse the flames. Florida’s Governor Rick Scott declared a state of emergency in advance of white nationalist Richard Spencer’s talk at the University of Florida this Thursday. The move will put extra police and emergency services at the ready in case violence breaks out.

Spencer was one of the organizers of the Charlottesville rally.

https://www.rawstory.com/2017/10/white-supremacists-primed-by-charlottesville-experts-warn/

 

Columbus, Genocide and “The Doctrine of Discovery”

Has we all agonized through another shameful Columbus Day yesterday, we came upon this great piece by Rebecca Nagle on ThinkProgress

 

The 15th-century doctrine that let Columbus ‘discover America’ is now the basis of Indian policy

The Supreme Court turned a backward, racist papal bull into American law. It’s preventing this country from confronting a genocide.

THE CHRISTOPHER COLUMBUS STATUE AT MANHATTAN’S COLUMBUS CIRCLE.      CREDIT: AP PHOTO/BEBETO MATTHEWS

On October 12, 1993, I sat in my first-grade classroom with a mountain of Popsicle sticks on my desk. I had just been taught that Columbus was a super great guy, and we would be building models of the Pinta and Santa Maria out of the sticks. Because he was very brave and knew he was right about the earth being flat, the lesson went, he sailed all the way across the Atlantic Ocean and “discovered” America. I raised my hand. “If Columbus had never come here, my family would still have our land.”

The fight to change the elementary school version of Columbus’ story isn’t just a symbolic fight. For us as Native Americans, it is the fight to reject the incredibly racist legal framework under which we still live. The same 15th-century doctrine that allowed Columbus to “discover Hispanola” (and gave his army license to rape, murder, and enslave Taino people) is the basis of U.S. federal Indian policy today. The Doctrine of Discovery has been cited in Supreme Court Cases as recently as 2005 and by 9th Circuit Court of Appeals in 2014.

While the international Indigenous community has been calling for the denouncement of the Doctrine of Discovery for decades, most Americans don’t even know what it is. It first appeared in 1455 as a papal bull giving Portugal permission to invade and colonize West Africa. After Columbus’s infamous voyage to the Caribbean, a similar papal bull was extended to Spain in 1493.

The Doctrine of Christian Discovery asserted simply that Christian Nations became the rightful owner of any land they found occupied by non-Christian people. Europeans used this international law, grounded in the racist presumption of European superiority, to colonize most of the earth. What followed was the kidnapping and enslavement an estimated 12.5 million African people and the systematic genocide of an estimated 90 million indigenous people (90 percent of the pre-genocide population of the Americas). In 1982, when Spain proposed to the UN General Assembly that the 500-year anniversary of Columbus’s voyage should be marked by celebration, the entire African delegation walked out.

The Doctrine of Discovery was codified into U.S. law by the Supreme Court the same decade my tribe was forcibly removed from our homelands to “Indian Territory” on the “Trail Where They Cried”, now known as the Trail of Tears. In the 1832 Johnson v. M’Intosh decision, Supreme Court Chief Justice Marshall wrote that “discovery gave title to the government” and that “the Indigenous inhabitants were then left with only a ‘right of occupancy,’ which United States courts have ruled, could be terminated at will by the federal government.” In other words, Native people are tenants.

As recently as 2005, Justice Ginsberg — a liberal icon of the left — cited the Doctrine of Discovery in City of Sherrill v. Oneida Nation of Indians, stating that the Oneida Indian Nation could not exert sovereignty over land within their 1794 treaty territory the tribe had bought back. In the first footnote of her decision, Ginsberg cites the Doctrine of Discovery stating “…the lands occupied by Indians when the colonists arrived became vested in the sovereign – first the discovering European nation and later the original States and the United States.”

The attack on tribal sovereignty and the diminishment of the rights of Native Nations has real and current consequences for the lives of Native people. Today, four out of five Native women in the U.S. will be raped, stalked, or abused in their lifetime, and one in three of us are raped, stalked, and abused every year. The majority of perpetrators (9 out of 10) are non-Native, but because of a Supreme Court decision that cited the doctrine of discovery (Oliphant v. Suquamish Indian Tribe, 1978), Native Nations are prohibited from prosecuting non-Natives who commit crimes on our lands.

My tribe, Cherokee Nation, has its own constitution, citizens, land, and government. Our right to self-govern pre-dates the existence of the United States. Our right to our land pre-dates the creation of the Supreme Court, the Constitution, and even Columbus. In Christian mythology, humans were kicked out of the Garden of Eden. Our creation story tells us how the mountains where we lived were first formed. We were living in our Eden at the time when Europeans came to claim it.

When discussing the genocide of Native Americans, the most important thing to remember is that it didn’t work: We are still here. As the late Wilma Mankiller, principal chief of Cherokee Nation from 1985 to 1995 stated, “One of the most powerful countries in the world as a policy first tried to wipe us off the face of the earth. And then, failing that, instituted a number of policies to make sure that we didn’t exist… as a culturally distinct group of people, and yet here we are. Not only do we exist, but we’re thriving and we’re growing, and we’re learning now to trust our own thinking again and dig our way out.”

I am currently working with leaders from the Baltimore American Indian Center and Native American Lifelines to change the name Columbus Day to Indigenous People’s Day in Baltimore. When we sit down with our City Council representatives, we hand them a fact sheet detailing Columbus’ known abuses. In his own journals, Columbus graphically describes raping indigenous women and sex-trafficking children (“those from nine to ten are now in demand.“) His men would cut of the hands of Taino people who did not bring them the required amount of gold, tying their severed hands around their necks. Within 50 years of Columbus landing on the island, 95 percent of the Taino population had died. A genocide.

Last week, an Italian-American man told me flatly I was wrong about Columbus, because the man holds a Ph.D in history. After the Nazi holocaust, Germany passed laws that prohibited denying that genocide happened. In contrast, in the United States, people are still afraid to confront the truth about this country’s own genocide of Native Americans. The laws that limit our rights as Native people and Native Nations are only possible in a country whose public denies what has happened to us.

Rebecca Nagle is a citizen of Cherokee Nation and a writer and organizer living in Baltimore.

https://thinkprogress.org/the-15th-century-doctrine-that-let-columbus-discover-america-is-now-the-basis-of-indian-policy-e990e00768d4/

 

Accountant for the US, UN and giant Corporations, Deloitt seriously hacked

Yet another hacking story. It’s pretty clear that the bad guys are winning and the “good guys” are clueless and busy covering their asses.

The hack into the accountancy giant Deloitte compromised a server that contained the emails of an estimated 350 clients, including four US government departments, the United Nations and some of the world’s biggest multinationals, the Guardian has been told.

Sources with knowledge of the hack say the incident was potentially more widespread than Deloitte has been prepared to acknowledge and that the company cannot be 100% sure what was taken.

Deloitte said it believed the hack had only “impacted” six clients, and that it was confident it knew where the hackers had been. It said it believed the attack on its systems, which began a year ago, was now over.

However, sources who have spoken to the Guardian, on condition of anonymity, said the company red-flagged, and has been reviewing, a cache of emails and attachments that may have been compromised from a host of other entities.

The Guardian has established that a host of clients had material that was made vulnerable by the hack, including:

  • The US departments of state, energy, homeland security, and defense.
  • The US Postal Service.
  • The National Institutes of Health.
  • “Fannie Mae” and “Freddie Mac”, the housing giants that fund and guarantee mortgages in the US.

Football’s world governing body, Fifa, had emails in the server that was breached, along with four global banks, three airlines, two multinational car manufacturers, energy giants and big pharmaceutical companies.

The Guardian has been given the names of more than 30 blue-chip businesses whose data was vulnerable to attack, with sources saying the list “is far from exhaustive”.

Deloitte did not deny any of these clients had information in the system that was the target of the hack, but it said none of the companies or government departments had been “impacted”. It said, “the number of email messages targeted by the attacker was a small fraction of those stored on the platform”.

This assurance has been contested by sources that spoke to the Guardian. They said Deloitte’s public position belied concern within the company about exactly what had happened and why.

The Guardian first revealed the existence of the hack on 25 September.

Since then, the Guardian has been provided with further details of the attack, which seems to have started in autumn last year at a time Deloitte was migrating and updating its email from an in-house system to Microsoft’s cloud-based Office 365 service.

The work was being undertaken at Deloitte’s Hermitage office in Nashville, Tennessee.

The hackers got into the system using an administrator’s account that, theoretically, gave them access to the entire email database, which included Deloitte’s US staff and their correspondence with clients.

Deloitte realized it had a substantial problem in spring this year, when it retained the Washington-based law firm, Hogan Lovells, on “special assignment” to review and advise about what it called “a possible cybersecurity incident”.

In addition to emails, the Guardian understands the hackers had potential access to usernames, passwords, IP addresses, architectural diagrams for businesses and health information.

It is also thought that some emails had attachments with sensitive security and design details.

Deloitte has insisted its internal inquiry, codenamed Windham, found that only six clients had information that had been compromised. The review had also been able to establish “precisely what information was at risk”, the company said.

However, that analysis has been contested by informed sources that have spoken to the Guardian. They say the investigation has not been able to establish definitively when the hackers got in and where they went; nor can they be completely sure that the electronic trail they left is complete.

“The hackers had free rein in the network for a long time and nobody knows the amount of the data taken,” said one source.

“A large amount of data was extracted, not the small amount reported. The hacker accessed the entire email database.”

Another source added: “There is an ongoing effort to determine the damage. There is a team looking at records that have been tagged for further analysis. It is all deeply embarrassing.”

The Guardian has been told Deloitte did not at the time have multi-factor authentication as standard on the server that was breached. A cybersecurity specialist told the Guardian this was “astonishing”.

The expert said the migration to the new email system would have “utterly complicated the kind of forensic investigation required to see what had happened”.

“A hacker has got into Deloitte’s email system and been undetected for months, and only six clients have been compromised? That does not sound right. If the hackers had been in there that long, they would have covered their tracks.”

When the Guardian put all these points to Deloitte, it declined to answer specific questions, but a spokesman said: “We dispute in the strongest terms that Deloitte is ‘downplaying’ the breach. We take any attack on our systems very seriously.

“We are confident that we know what information was targeted and what the hacker actually did. Very few clients were impacted, although we want to stress that even when one client is impacted, that is one client too many.

“We have concluded that the attacker is no longer in Deloitte’s systems and haven’t seen any signs of any subsequent activities.

“Our review determined what the hacker actually did. The attacker accessed data from an email platform. The review of that platform is complete.”

In recent months, Deloitte has introduced multi-factor authentication and encryption software to try to stop further hacks.

Dmitri Sirota, co-founder and CEO of the cybersecurity firm BigID, warned that many companies had failed to use such methods because they were inconvenient and complex.

“Privileged accounts are like keys that unlock everything, from the castle to the treasury. They provide unfettered access to all systems, which is why they are so valuable.

“Organizations are monitoring databases, not the data in it. It’s hard to detect changes, prevent incidents or compare your data to notice breached information unless you have an inventory of what you have.”

The “Dossier” by former UK intelligence official Christopher Steele is casting an ever darker shadow over Trump

 

former British intelligence official, Christopher Steele

Nine months after its first appearance, the set of intelligence reports known as the Steele dossier, one of the most explosive documents in modern political history, is still hanging over Washington, casting a shadow over the Trump administration that has only grown darker as time has gone by.

It was reported this week that the document’s author, former British intelligence official, Christopher Steele, has been interviewed by investigators working for the special counsel on Russian interference in the 2016 election.

The Senate and House intelligence committees are, meanwhile, asking to see Steele to make up their own mind about his findings. The ranking Democrat on the House committee, Adam Schiff, said that the dossier was “a very important and useful guide to help us figure out what we need to look into”.

The fact that Steele’s reports are being taken seriously after lengthy scrutiny by federal and congressional investigators has far-reaching implications.

Originally commissioned by a private firm as opposition research by Donald Trump’s Republican and then Democratic opponents, they cite a range of unnamed sources, in Russia and the US, who describe the Kremlin’s cultivation over many years of the man who now occupies the Oval Office – and the systematic collusion of Trump’s associates with Moscow to help get him there.

The question of collusion is at the heart of the various investigations into links between Trump and Moscow. Even a senior Republican, Richard Burr, the chairman of the Senate intelligence committee, admitted this week it was an open question.

Burr said his committee needed to talk Steele himself to assess the dossier properly and urged him to speak to its members or staff. According to an NBC report on Friday, Steele had expressed willingness to meet the committee’s leaders.

In his remarks this week, Burr said his committee had come to a consensus in supporting the conclusions of a US intelligence community assessment in January this year that Russian had conducted a multi-pronged campaign to interfere in the 2016 election, in Trump’s favor.

It is a finding that echoes the reports that Steele was producing seven months earlier. Trump has called the assessment a “hoax”, but there is no sign the three agencies that came to that conclusion, the CIA, FBI and NSA, have had any second thoughts in the intervening months.

“Many of my former CIA colleagues have taken [the Steele] reports seriously since they were first published,” wrote John Sipher, a former senior officer in the CIA’s National Clandestine Service on the Just Security website. “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.”

Sipher emphasised the “raw” nature of the reports, aimed at conveying an accurate account of what sources are saying, rather than claiming to be a definitive summary of events. There are spelling mistakes and rough edges. Several of the episodes it described remain entirely unverified.

But as every passing month brings more leaks, revelations in the press, and more progress in the investigations, the Steele dossier has generally gained in credibility, rather than lost it.

The Russian lawyer Natalia Veselnitskaya,: Yury Martyanov/AFP/Getty Images

Trump Tower meeting

One of the more striking recent developments was the disclosure of a meeting on 9 June 2016 in Trump Tower involving Trump’s son, Donald Jr, and son-in-law, Jared Kushner, with a Russian lawyer closely tied to the government, Natalia Veselnitskaya.

After the meeting was first reported on 8 July this year, the president’s son claimed (in a statement dictated, it turned out, by his father) that it had been about adoptions of Russian children by Americans.

The next day that was exposed as a lie, with the publication of emails that made it clear that Veselnitskaya was offering damaging material on Hillary Clinton, that an intermediary setting up the meeting said was “part of Russia and its government’s support for Mr Trump”.

“If it’s what you say, I love it, especially later in the summer,” Donald Trump Jr replied.

Just 11 days after that meeting – but more than a year before it became public – Steele quoted a source as saying that “the Kremlin had been feeding Trump and his team valuable intelligence on his opponents, including Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton”, for several years.

A later report, dated 19 July 2016, said: “Speaking in confidence to a compatriot in late July 2016, Source E, an ethnic Russian close associate of Republican US presidential candidate Donald Trump, admitted that there was a well-developed conspiracy of cooperation between them and the Russian leadership.” The report said that such contacts were handled on Trump’s end by his then campaign manager, Paul Manafort, who participated in the 9 June Trump Tower meeting.

Manafort has denied taking part in any collusion with the Russian state, but registered himself as a foreign agent retroactively after it was revealed his firm received more than $17m working as a lobbyist for a pro-Russian Ukrainian party. He is a subject of special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation and in July the FBI raided his home in Virginia.

Other key protagonists in the Steele dossier have surfaced in subsequent disclosures and investigation. Two of them, an Azeri-Russian businessman Araz Agalarov and his son Emin, are described in emails released by Donald Trump Jr as offering to serve as intermediaries in passing on damaging material on Clinton and is reported to have help set up the Trump Tower meeting.

Carter Page

Another key figure in the Steele dossier is Carter Page, an energy consultant who Trump named as one of his foreign policy advisors. Steele’s sources describe him as an “intermediary” between Manafort and Moscow, who had met a Putin lieutenant and head of the Russian energy giant, Rosneft, and a senior Kremlin official, Igor Diveykin. Page denied meeting either man on his trips to Moscow, which he has said were for business purposes and not connected to his role in the Trump campaign.

Nonetheless, he has become a focus of investigation: it was reported in April that that the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court issued an order last year for his communication to be monitored. To obtain the order, investigators would have to demonstrate “probable cause” to believe Page was acting as an agent of a foreign power. Page has said he welcomed the news of the order as it demonstrated he was being made a scapegoat of the investigation.

Elsewhere, a Steele memo in September 2016 mentions a “Mikhail Kulagin” who had been withdrawn from the Russian embassy in Washington because of his “heavy involvement in the US presidential election operation”.

There was no diplomat of that name at the mission, but there was a Mikhail Kalugin; five months later, it emerged that he had left the embassy in August 2016.

McClatchy reported he was under investigation for his role in Russia’s interference in the campaign. The BBC reported that the US had identified Kalugin as a spy.

Facebook

More recently, there has been a slew of revelations about the role of disinformation spread by Russians and other eastern Europeans posing as Americans on social media. The New York Times reported that hundreds and possibly thousands of Russian-linked fake accounts and bots on Facebook and Twitter were used to spread anti-Clinton stories and messages.

Facebook disclosed that it had shut down several hundred accounts that it believes were fabricated by a Kremlin-linked Russian company to buy $100,000 in ads that often promoted racial and other divisive issues during the campaign.

This week, Facebook handed over to Congress 3,000 ads bought by a Russian organization during the campaign, and it was reported that many of those ads, some of them Islamophobic, were specifically targeted on swing states, Michigan and Wisconsin.

A Steele memo from August 2016 states that after Russia’s hand had been discovered in the hacking of Democratic party emails and passing them to WikiLeaks for publication, another avenue of influence would be explored.

The memo says “the tactics would be to spread rumors and misinformation about the content of what already had been leaked and make up new content”. The Russian official alleged by Steele’s sources to be in charge of the operation, Sergei Ivanov – then Putin’s chief of staff – is quoted as saying: “The audience to be targeted by such operations was the educated youth in America as the PA [Russian Presidential Administration] assessed that there was still a chance they could be persuaded to vote for Republican candidate Donald Trump as a protest against the Washington establishment (in the form of Democratic candidate Hillary Clinton).”

The Steele dossier said one of the aims of the Russian influence campaign was to peel off voters who had supported Bernie Sanders in the Democratic primaries and nudge them towards Trump.

Evidence has since emerged that Russians and eastern Europeans posing as Americans targeted Sanders supporters with divisive and anti-Clinton messages in the summer of 2016, after the primaries were over.

The startling claim that Trump was filmed with prostitutes while staying at a Moscow hotel in November 2013, when he was staging the Miss Universe contest there, has not been substantiated in any way.

Nor has the allegation that Trump’s lawyer and vice-president of the Trump Organisation, Michael Cohen, traveled to Prague in August 2013 to conspire with a senior Russian official. In a letter to the House intelligence committee, Cohen said he never went to Prague and took issue with a string of other claims in the dossier.

It has however emerged that Cohen was involved in exploring a real estate deal in Moscow for the Trump Organisation while the campaign was in full swing. He has been summoned to appear in open hearing before the Senate intelligence committee later this month.

The Steele dossier, its author and the firm who hired him, Fusion GPS, have become favored targets for Trump’s loyalists on Capitol Hill. They point to the fact that the genesis of the documents was a paid commission to find damaging facts about Trump.

But the dossier has not faded from view. Instead, it appears to be growing in significance as the investigations have gathered pace.

https://www.theguardian.com/us-news/2017/oct/07/trump-russia-steele-dossier-moscow

by Julian Borger in Washington