Russian type propaganda on local US TV stations

Local television is still one of the most popular ways Americans get their news, which makes what Sinclair Broadcasting is doing seem all the more heinous. Local anchors at Sinclair stations across the country are forced to read propaganda from their corporate masters. In this case, propaganda that sounds like it was written in the White House press office. Deadspin has compiled a series of these right-wing rants that frighteningly show just how powerful this hype can be. As Dan Rather often says, the key to a strong democracy is a free and independent press. It’s sickening to watch local journalists who are forced to read something that trashes their own profession. Please note this is happening at nearly 200 television stations across the country.

Oppose Trump TV: Stop the Sinclair-Tribune Merger. Sign here:
https://act.freepress.net/sign/journ_trump_sinclair/?source=front_slider

FYI:
https://www.fcc.gov/transaction/sinclair-tribune

https://www.rollingstone.com/tv/news/john-oliver-on-sinclair-broadcast-groups-biased-local-news-w518594?utm_source=email

Courtesy of Richard’s list

RIGHT-WING PROPAGANDA MEDIA ARM REACHES INTO HUMBOLDT COUNTY

https://tuluwatexaminer.wordpress.com/2017/05/08/right-wing-propaganda-media-arm-reaches-into-humboldt-county/

Advertisements

Not even “Dear Leader” Trump, can be above criticism — or the law

https://tuluwatexaminer.wordpress.com/2018/03/20/lieutenant-colonel-contributor-quits-and-bids-a-snarky-das-vidanya-to-fox-news/

Very conservative Retired Army officer Ralph Peters blows the whistle on Fox News and Trump

You could measure the decline of Fox News by the drop in the quality of guests waiting in the green room. A year and a half ago, you might have heard George Will discussing policy with a senator while a former Cabinet member listened in. Today, you would meet a Republican commissar with a steakhouse waistline and an eager young woman wearing too little fabric and too much makeup, immersed in memorizing her talking points.

This wasn’t a case of the rats leaving a sinking ship. The best sailors were driven overboard by the rodents.

As I wrote in an internal Fox memo, leaked and widely disseminated, I declined to renew my contract as Fox News’s strategic analyst because of the network’s propagandizing for the Trump administration. Today’s Fox prime-time lineup preaches paranoia, attacking processes and institutions vital to our republic and challenging the rule of law.

Four decades ago, as a U.S. Army second lieutenant, I took an oath to “support and defend the Constitution.” In moral and ethical terms, that oath never expires. As Fox’s assault on our constitutional order intensified, spearheaded by its after-dinner demagogues, I had no choice but to leave.

My error was waiting so long to walk away. The chance to speak to millions of Americans is seductive, and, with the infinite human capacity for self-delusion, I rationalized that I could make a difference by remaining at Fox and speaking honestly.

I was wrong.

As early as the fall of 2016, and especially as doubts mounted about the new Trump administration’s national security vulnerabilities, I increasingly was blocked from speaking on the issues about which I could offer real expertise: Russian affairs and our intelligence community. I did not hide my views at Fox and, as word spread that I would not unswervingly support President Trump and, worse, that I believed an investigation into Russian interference was essential to our national security, I was excluded from segments that touched on Vladimir Putin’s possible influence on an American president, his campaign or his administration.

I was the one person on the Fox payroll who, trained in Russian studies and the Russian language, had been face to face with Russian intelligence officers in the Kremlin and in far-flung provinces. I have traveled widely in and written extensively about the region. Yet I could only rarely and briefly comment on the paramount security question of our time: whether Putin and his security services ensnared the man who would become our president. Trump’s behavior patterns and evident weaknesses (financial entanglements, lack of self-control and sense of sexual entitlement) would have made him an ideal blackmail target — and the Russian security apparatus plays a long game.

As indictments piled up, though, I could not even discuss the mechanics of how the Russians work on either Fox News or Fox Business.

All Americans, whatever their politics, should want to know, with certainty, whether a hostile power has our president and those close to him in thrall. This isn’t about party but about our security at the most profound level. Every so often, I could work in a comment on the air, but even the best-disposed hosts were wary of transgressing the party line.

Fox never tried to put words in my mouth, nor was I told explicitly that I was taboo on Trump-Putin matters. I simply was no longer called on for topics central to my expertise. I was relegated to Groundhog Day analysis of North Korea and the Middle East, or to Russia-related news that didn’t touch the administration. Listening to political hacks with no knowledge of things Russian tell the vast Fox audience that the special counsel’s investigation was a “witch hunt,” while I could not respond, became too much to bear. There is indeed a witch hunt, and it’s led by Fox against Robert Mueller.

The cascade of revelations about the Russia-related crimes of Trump associates was dismissed, adamantly, as “fake news” by prime-time hosts who themselves generate fake news blithely.

Then there was Fox’s assault on our intelligence community — in which I had served, from the dirty-boots tactical level to strategic work in the Pentagon (with forays that stretched from Russia through Pakistan to Burma and Bolivia and elsewhere). Opportunities to explain how the system actually works, how stringent the safeguards are and that intelligence personnel are responsible public servants — sometimes heroes — dried up after an on-air confrontation shortly before Trump’s inauguration with a popular (and populist) host, Lou Dobbs.

Dobbs has no experience with the intelligence system. Yet he ranted about its reputed assaults on our privacy and other alleged misdeeds (if you want to know who spies on you, it’s the FGA — Facebook, Google and Amazon — not the NSA). When I insisted that the men and women who work in our intelligence agencies are patriots who keep us safe, the host reddened and demanded, “Patriotism is the last refuge of the — you fill in the blank.” As I sought to explain that, no, the NSA isn’t listening to our pillow talk, Dobbs kept repeating, “Patriotism is the last refuge of the — fill in the blank.”

Because I’d had a long, positive history with Dobbs, I refrained from replying: “Patriotism is the last refuge of the talk-show host.”

I became a disgruntled employee, limited to topics on which I agreed with the Trump administration, such as loosened targeting restrictions on terrorists and a tough line with North Korea. Over the past few months, it reached the point where I hated walking into the Fox studio. Friends and family encouraged me to leave, convinced that I embarrassed myself by remaining with the network (to be fair, I’m perfectly capable of embarrassing myself without assistance from Fox).

During my 10 years at Fox News and Fox Business, I did my best to be a forthright voice. I angered left and right. I criticized President Barack Obama fiercely (one infelicity resulted in a two-week suspension), but I also argued for sensible gun-control measures and environmental protections. I made mistakes, but they were honest mistakes. I took the opportunity to speak to millions of Americans seriously and — still that earnest young second lieutenant to some degree — could not imagine lying to them.

With my Soviet-studies background, the cult of Trump unnerves me. For our society’s health, no one, not even a president, can be above criticism — or the law.

I must stress that there are many honorable and talented professionals at the Fox channels, superb reporters, some gutsy hosts, and adept technicians and staff. But Trump idolaters and the merrily hypocritical prime-time hosts are destroying the network — no matter how profitable it may remain.

The day my memo leaked, a journalist asked me how I felt. Usually quick with a reply, I struggled, amid a cyclone of emotions, to think of the right words. After perhaps 30 seconds of silence, I said, “Free.”

https://www.washingtonpost.com/outlook/why-i-left-fox-news/2018/03/30

This is like the movie Goodfellas only it’s really “dumbfellas”

“Dear Leader” Trump has FBI official Andrew McCabe, and witness to his obstruction of justice, fired just hours before his retirement

Former FBI official Andrew McCabe memorialized his interactions with Trump in contemporaneous memos, a person familiar with the case said, and they could become a key piece of evidence in special counsel Robert S. Mueller III’s probe.

Mueller has been investigating, among other things, whether Trump obstructed justice in his interactions with top law enforcement officials, including McCabe and his former boss, FBI Director James B. Comey. Comey also kept memos documenting his interactions with Trump, which Mueller already was reviewing.

Trump, Michael Cohen and John Dowd

The memos could help bolster McCabe’s credibility, insulating him from allegations that he misstated or misremembered his interactions with Trump. On Friday, McCabe was fired from the FBI, about 26 hours before he was set to retire, over allegations from the Justice Department’s inspector general that he authorized the disclosure of information to a reporter about an ongoing criminal investigation, then misled investigators about it. McCabe disputes that he misled anyone or did anything wrong.

McCabe had been the FBI’s No. 2 official until earlier this year, when he stepped down after FBI Director Christopher A. Wray was briefed on the inspector general’s findings. He had remained an FBI employee until Friday when Attorney General Jeff Sessions, acting on a recommendation from the FBI’s disciplinary office, fired him over the allegations.

It was not immediately clear which interactions with Trump the memos detailed, or how specific they were. McCabe has now spoken publicly about a number of awkward conversations he claims to have had with Trump.

In January, The Washington Post reported that Trump, during an Oval Office meeting in May, had asked McCabe who he voted for in the 2016 election, then vented about hundreds of thousands of dollars in political donations that McCabe’s wife had received. His wife, Jill McCabe, a Democrat, ran for a seat in the Virginia State Senate in 2015, and the donations came from a political action committee controlled by Terry McAuliffe, a close friend of Trump’s opponent, Hillary Clinton.

Trump renewed some of those complaints on Saturday, writing in a tweet:

“The Fake News is beside themselves that McCabe was caught, called out and fired. How many hundreds of thousands of dollars was given to wife’s campaign by Crooked H friend, Terry M, who was also under investigation? How many lies? How many leaks? Comey knew it all, and much more!”

Comey’s lawyers declined to comment for this story. McCabe said Friday night Comey was “aware of the interaction” he authorized two other FBI officials to speak with a reporter. Comey wrote on Twitter just minutes after the Trump’s tweet, “the American people will hear my story very soon. And they can judge for themselves who is honorable and who is not.”

McCabe told CNN in an interview in advance of his firing that Trump was focused on his wife’s campaign and alleged there were at least four times where Trump called it a “mistake” or “problem,” or branded his wife a “loser.” McCabe said he told Trump he himself had not voted in the 2016 election.

Mueller has shown interest in McCabe’s interactions with Trump, though Comey’s conversations might more squarely fit into a possible obstruction of justice case. Comey alleges Trump asked him for a pledge of loyalty, and asked if he could let go an investigation into former national security adviser Michael Flynn. Flynn has since pleaded guilty to lying to the FBI as a part of Mueller’s ongoing investigation. Trump fired Comey in May, and McCabe briefly took over as the FBI’s acting director.

Trump would later say in a television interview that he was thinking of “this Russia thing with Trump” when he decided to remove Comey.

McCabe said Friday that his own firing was part of “this Administration’s ongoing war on the FBI and the efforts of the Special Counsel investigation, which continue to this day.”

The move will likely cost McCabe significant retirement benefits, because he could not retire Sunday, when he turns 50. Perhaps more significantly, it again draws the federal law enforcement into a controversy at a time when those inside the bureau already fear the institution’s reputation won’t survive the near constant attacks from Trump and conservatives mistrustful of their work.

Wray, the current FBI director, has been trying to restore morale at the FBI by quietly installing his own people in top management positions and — though it has proven impossible — trying to stay out of the news.

“Certainly the FBI is in the barrel, and they badly want to get out of it — the workforce does,” said former FBI Assistant Director Ron Hosko. “But headlines like this are not the way out.”

Several former federal law enforcement officials questioned the timing of McCabe’s firing, as Trump’s lawyer seized on it to call for the shutting down of Mueller’s probe.

Former CIA Director John Brennan, who responded on Twitter to Trump, said, “When the full extent of your venality, moral turpitude, and political corruption becomes known, you will take your rightful place as a disgraced demagogue in the dustbin of history. You may scapegoat Andy McCabe, but you will not destroy America … America will triumph over you.”

Former Attorney General Eric Holder wrote, “Analyze McCabe firing on two levels: the substance and the timing. We don’t know enough about the substance yet. The timing appears cruel and a cave that compromised DOJ independence to please an increasingly erratic Trump who should’ve played no role here. This is dangerous.”

Inside the FBI, the mood was tense Saturday, but the reaction was somewhat mixed. Some agents exchanged messages about how they might be able to help McCabe and expressed anger at how he was removed so close to his retirement, people familiar with the matter said. McCabe, though, was not universally loved inside the institution, as some employees resented him for what they felt was a rapid rise through the ranks in his 22 years at the FBI.

Many at the bureau were saying, “This is crazy. I can’t believe this is happening to him,” while others expressed the sentiment, “That’s kind of what you get,” one law enforcement official said.

Current and former law enforcement officials noted that misleading investigators is a fatal offense — though they were curious the degree to which the evidence would show McCabe had done so. The inspector general has not yet released a report detailing the allegations against McCabe, though they have been generally described by people familiar with the matter.

“I got one comment from a McCabe critic that he got what was coming to him and has been coming to him,” Hosko said. “But I’ve heard, too, from people who say they feel sorry for him … Anybody who’s had the retirement rug jerked out from him in this way is troubling. If it can happen to him, it can happen to you.”

In the past year, the FBI fired 19 people for showing a lack of candor not under oath and 12 for showing a lack of candor under oath — though those figures might represent double counting if a person showed a lack of candor in both settings.

Russian sanctions passed by a veto-proof majority, now Trump stonewalls Congress

Rep. Maxine Waters (D-CA) on Tuesday blasted Secretary of Treasury Steve Mnuchin for failing to follow a law that requires implementing Russian sanctions.

During Mnuchin’s testimony before the Financial Stability Oversight Council on Tuesday, Waters noted that the Treasury Department had not met the deadline on Russian sanctions passed by a veto-proof majority after Russia was caught interfering in the 2016 U.S. elections.

For his part, Mnuchin claimed that “the sections you’re referring to has been delegated to the State Department.”

“Who is responsible for delegating what was passed by an overwhelming majority of this House to the State Department?” Waters asked.

“The president,” Mnuchin answered.

“So the president decided that despite the fact that in the law that we passed, it delegated responsibility to Treasury, that he decided that he wanted it to be delegated to the State Department rather than Treasury,” Waters said. “And this is your excuse for not having implemented the law, is that correct?”

“No, it’s not my excuse,” Mnuchin replied. “The president had the authority to delegate within that as he chose fit.”

“But the final conclusion is that nothing has been done!” Waters charged. “There has been no waiver, there has been no delay, there has not been anything that has been done. You did not waive or delay sanctions. That is the conclusion.”

Mnuchin argued that an “enormous amount of work” had been done on by the Treasury on Russian sanctions.

“Would you describe the ‘enormous amount of work’ that has been done?” Waters pressed.

Mnuchin insisted that there was a classified document that proved the work had been done.

“Are you telling me that your response to the overwhelming majority of this Congress having created law to impose sanctions on Russia that undermined our democracy, that your response is classified?” Waters gasped.

“I assure you that as it relates to the work being done in Treasury, there will be sanctions,” Mnuchin stated. “We complied with the law on time.”

“The Congress of the United States does not know what you are doing!” Waters shot back. “The Congress of the United States does not expect that your response to the public policy that was developed by us be somehow responded to in a classified way.”

.

More evidence of Russia’s fingerprints everywhere and Trump’s complete failure on sanctions

Trump Tower Russian Lawyer, Natalia Veselnitskaya, Exposed in Swiss Corruption Case

Natalia Veselnitskaya, who organized the notorious Trump Tower meeting, has been named in an explosive Swiss court case about bribery, corruption, and double-agents.

LONDON—The Moscow operation behind the now-infamous Russian-Trump Tower meeting in June 2016 included a direct attempt to enlist a foreign country’s law-enforcement official as a virtual double-agent, according to a court case in Switzerland.

One of Switzerland’s top investigators has been fired after allegations of bribery, violating secrecy laws, and “unauthorized clandestine behavior” in meeting with the very same Russian actors linked to the Trump Tower encounter.

Details of the explosive case have been published by investigative reporters for the Tribune de Genève and Tages-Anzeiger newspapers in Switzerland. The officer, identified only as Victor K., traveled to Moscow—against the expressed wishes of his superiors—where he spoke to Natalia Veselnitskaya, the lawyer who met with Donald Trump Jr., Paul Manafort, and Jared Kushner at Trump Tower.

The meeting was reportedly set up by Russian Deputy Attorney General Saak Albertovich Karapetyan—from the same rogue department that was apparently responsible for offering intel on Hillary Clinton to be shared at the Trump Tower meeting and the Kremlin’s further plots to influence U.S. politics.

The reports, which are based on Swiss court papers, describe how K. was lured to Moscow during a call from Karapetyan before Christmas 2016. He was told not to go by his boss, ostensibly because he was working too much overtime, but he made the trip anyway, using his diplomatic passport to fly to the Russian capital. There, he was put up in a luxury hotel and asked to attend an unexpected meeting with Veselnitskaya.

In the case against K.—who had been entrusted with investigating the Swiss financial arrangements of the Russian mafia and oligarchs for decades—it emerged that he had previously met Karapetyan in Geneva and Zurich, as well as Russia “without the knowledge of his superiors.”

According to the Tages-Anzeiger report, the Swiss Federal Administrative Court ruled this amounted to unacceptable “unauthorized clandestine behavior” that brought the integrity of the Federal Criminal Police into question. “In particular, it gives the impression that they do not have their employees under control and thus creates an unpredictable security risk in their delicate field.”

The interest of Veselnitskaya and the Russian prosecutor general’s office is likely to be linked back to a $230 million tax fraud that was uncovered by Sergei Magnitsky, a lawyer who was working for Bill Browder, whose Hermitage Capital had major investments in Russia. After discovering the massive financial crime that could be linked back to the Russian government, Magnitsky was arrested, beaten, and allowed to die in a Russian jail cell.

A series of laws in Magnitsky’s name have been enacted all over the world, imposing sanctions on Russians accused of corruption or complicity in the death of Magnitsky and the subsequent coverup. President Barack Obama signed the U.S. Magnitsky Act in 2012.

A large portion of those stolen funds are believed to have made their way into the Swiss banking sector, sparking investigations by Swiss authorities, including its federal police and the Swiss prosecutor’s office, both of which worked closely with K.

Alexander Perepilichnyy, a Russian businessman living near London, had tipped off Magnitsky about the role played by Switzerland in the international scam. A few weeks before he was due to give evidence at a hearing in Lausanne, he died suddenly while he was out running.

British detectives initially concluded there was nothing suspicious about the sudden collapse of the 44-year-old whistleblower—despite his own fears that he would be assassinated. A later toxicology investigation found traces of the deadly Gelsemium elegans flower, which is a known weapon of Chinese and Russian contract killers.

The Swiss court investigating K. heard that Veselnitskaya had raised the question of the Magnitsky case with him during that Moscow meeting. Swiss accounts linked to the fraud are still frozen.

Donald Trump Jr. and others have confirmed that Veselnitskaya raised similar issues during the summit at Trump Tower in June 2016.

https://www.thedailybeast.com/trump-tower-russian-lawyer-natalia-veselnitskaya-exposed-in-swiss-corruption-case

In complete defiance of Congress, the White House said on Monday it would not immediately impose new sanctions on Russia.

Russia’s elite dismiss U.S. list as ‘telephone book’ of the wealthy

Russia’s elite on Tuesday shrugged off U.S. publication of a sweeping list of oligarchs close to the Kremlin as simply a “telephone directory” of the rich, though a Kremlin spokesman said it could even harm the image of Russia’s political leaders.

One Western businessman said it could create uncertainty in dealings with sectors of Russian business. One Russian energy executive feared for future dealings with foreign banks.

The U.S. Treasury Department named top businessmen including the heads of the two of Russia’s biggest banks, metals magnates and the boss of the state gas monopoly on a list of oligarchs close to Russian power.

The list of 210 people, including 96 ‘oligarchs’ with wealth of $1 billion or more, was drawn up as part of a sanctions package signed into law in August last year.

The document said inclusion did not mean those named were likely to be sanctioned, although it seemed it would cast the shadow of potential sanctions over a wide circle of wealthy Russians.

“Publication of such a wide list of everything and everyone could potentially damage the image and reputation of our firms, our businessmen, our politicians, and of members of the leadership,” Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov, himself included on the list, told reporters.

Shares in some of the big metals companies – Norilsk Nickel and aluminum giant Rusal, whose owners were named – initially fell, though Russian stock in general recovered later.

President Vladimir Putin’s inner circle is already subject to personal U.S. sanctions imposed over Russia’s 2014 annexation of Ukraine’s Crimea region.

The White House said on Monday it would not immediately impose new sanctions on Russia.

“All this looks more like a book, ‘Who’s Who in Russian Politics’. I as a member of the government am obliged to be on this list,” Deputy Prime Minister Arkady Dvorkovich, one of 114 government officials named, told Reuters.

 

THE LIST

The 2017 sanctions package leading to the list being drawn up was prompted partly by Washington’s belief that Russia meddled in the 2016 U.S. presidential election. The Kremlin denies these allegations.

The list reached deep into the business elite and government.

Officials and others named said it amounted to little more than a copy of last year’s Forbes list of Russia’s wealthiest people – with some factual mistakes thrown in.

“It seems no-one decided to look too deeply. They just copied Forbes list,” said one oligarch whose name is on the list but who had distanced himself from Russian investments and Putin’s inner circle.

MOSCOW (Reuters) -Polina Devitt, Katya Golubkova

https://www.reuters.com/article/us-usa-russia-sanctions-list/russias-elite-dismiss-u-s-list-as-telephone-book-of-the-wealthy

 

 

Will the “blue tsunami” be negated by terrorist attacks?

Trump says privately that a terror attack could save him and GOP from 2018 election bloodbath:

Faced with the likelihood of a “blue tsunami” in the 2018 midterm elections, Donald Trump is holding out hope that terrorists will attack the country, reported the Washington Post on Wednesday.

“In private conversations,” said the Post, “Trump has told advisers that he doesn’t think the 2018 election has to be as bad as others are predicting. He has referenced the 2002 midterms when George W. Bush and Republicans fared better after the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks, these people said.”

Matthew Yglesias at Vox.com wrote, “This is a frightening line of thought for an incumbent president and his team to be entertaining.”

“If the president and his top staff are not so concerned with democracy but purely political power, that’s a terrifying proposition,” said Yglesias.

If Trump believes that a terror attack will be a boon to his political fortunes, asked Vox, “How hard is he really working to keep the country safe?”

http://www.rawstory.com/2018/01/trump-says-privately-that-a-terror-attack-could-save-him-and-gop-from-2018-election-bloodbath-report/

This strategy is similar in some ways to his public call for Russia’s help to defeat Hilary Clinton in the 2016 campaign we hope no terrorist or FSB agents decide to help Trump out this time.

Trump’s Russian romance started with the old Soviet Union back in the 80’s

In 1987, a young real estate developer traveled to the Soviet Union. The KGB almost certainly made the trip happen

It was 1984 and General Vladimir Alexandrovich Kryuchkov had a problem. The general occupied one of the KGB’s most exalted posts. He was head of the First Chief Directorate, the prestigious KGB arm responsible for gathering foreign intelligence.

Kryuchkov had begun his career with five years at the Soviet mission in Budapest under Ambassador Yuri Andropov. In 1967 Andropov became KGB chairman. Kryuchkov went to Moscow, took up a number of sensitive posts, and established a reputation as a devoted and hardworking officer. By 1984, Kryuchkov’s directorate in Moscow was bigger than ever before—12,000 officers, up from about 3,000 in the 1960s. His headquarters at Yasenevo, on the wooded southern outskirts of the city, was expanding: Workmen were busy constructing a 22-story annex and a new 11-story building.

In politics, change was in the air. Soon a new man would arrive in the Kremlin, Mikhail Gorbachev. Gorbachev’s policy of detente with the West—a refreshing contrast to the global confrontation of previous general secretaries—meant the directorate’s work abroad was more important than ever.

Kryuchkov faced several challenges. First, a hawkish president, Ronald Reagan, was in power in Washington. The KGB regarded his two predecessors, Gerald Ford and Jimmy Carter, as weak. By contrast Reagan was seen as a potent adversary. The directorate was increasingly preoccupied with what it believed—wrongly—was an American plot to conduct a preemptive nuclear strike against the USSR.

It was around this time that Donald Trump appears to have attracted the attention of Soviet intelligence. How that happened, and where that relationship began, is an answer hidden somewhere in the KGB’s secret archives. Assuming, that is, that the documents still exist.

Trump’s first visit to Soviet Moscow in 1987 looks, with hindsight, to be part of a pattern. The dossier by the former British intelligence officer Christopher Steele asserts that the Kremlin had been cultivating Trump for “at least five years” before his stunning victory in the 2016 US presidential election. This would take us back to around 2011 or 2012.

In fact, the Soviet Union was interested in him too, three decades earlier. The top level of the Soviet diplomatic service arranged his 1987 Moscow visit. With assistance from the KGB. It took place while Kryuchkov was seeking to improve the KGB’s operational techniques in one particular and sensitive area. The spy chief wanted KGB staff abroad to recruit more Americans.

In addition to shifting politics in Moscow, Kryuchkov’s difficulty had to do with intelligence gathering. The results from KGB officers abroad had been disappointing. Too often they would pretend to have obtained information from secret sources. In reality, they had recycled material from newspapers or picked up gossip over lunch with a journalist. Too many residencies had “paper agents” on their books: targets for recruitment who had nothing to do with real intelligence.

Kryuchkov sent out a series of classified memos to KGB heads of station. Oleg Gordievsky—formerly based in Denmark and then in Great Britain—copied them and passed them to British intelligence. He later co-published them with the historian Christopher Andrew under the title Comrade Kryuchkov’s Instructions: Top Secret Files on KGB Foreign Operations 1975–1985.

In January 1984 Kryuchkov addressed the problem during a biannual review held in Moscow, and at a special conference six months later. The urgent subject: how to improve agent recruitment. The general urged his officers to be more “creative.” Previously they had relied on identifying candidates who showed ideological sympathy toward the USSR: leftists, trade unionists and so on. By the mid-1980s these were not so many. So KGB officers should “make bolder use of material incentives”: money. And use flattery, an important tool.

The Center, as KGB headquarters was known, was especially concerned about its lack of success in recruiting US citizens, according to Andrew and Gordievsky. The PR Line—that is, the Political Intelligence Department stationed in KGB residencies abroad—was given explicit instructions to find “U.S. targets to cultivate or, at the very least, official contacts.” “The main effort must be concentrated on acquiring valuable agents,” Kryuchkov said.

The memo—dated February 1, 1984—was to be destroyed as soon as its contents had been read. It said that despite improvements in “information gathering,” the KGB “has not had great success in operation against the main adversary [America].”

One solution was to make wider use of “the facilities of friendly intelligence services”—for example, Czechoslovakian or East German spy networks.

And: “Further improvement in operational work with agents calls for fuller and wider utilization of confidential and special unofficial contacts. These should be acquired chiefly among prominent figures in politics and society, and important representatives of business and science.” These should not only “supply valuable information” but also “actively influence” a country’s foreign policy “in a direction of advantage to the USSR.”

There were, of course, different stages of recruitment. Typically, a case officer would invite a target to lunch. The target would be classified as an “official contact.” If the target appeared responsive, he (it was rarely she) would be promoted to a “subject of deep study,” an obyekt razrabotki. The officer would build up a file, supplemented by official and covert material. That might include readouts from conversations obtained through bugging by the KGB’s technical team.

The KGB also distributed a secret personality questionnaire, advising case officers what to look for in a successful recruitment operation. In April 1985 this was updated for “prominent figures in the West.” The directorate’s aim was to draw the target “into some form of collaboration with us.” This could be “as an agent, or confidential or special or unofficial contact.”

The form demanded basic details—name, profession, family situation, and material circumstances. There were other questions, too: what was the likelihood that the “subject could come to power (occupy the post of president or prime minister)”? And an assessment of personality. For example: “Are pride, arrogance, egoism, ambition or vanity among subject’s natural characteristics?”

The most revealing section concerned kompromat. The document asked for: “Compromising information about subject, including illegal acts in financial and commercial affairs, intrigues, speculation, bribes, graft … and exploitation of his position to enrich himself.” Plus “any other information” that would compromise the subject before “the country’s authorities and the general public.” Naturally the KGB could exploit this by threatening “disclosure.”

Finally, “his attitude towards women is also of interest.” The document wanted to know: “Is he in the habit of having affairs with women on the side?”

Image result for Ivanka's mom

Ivana Zelnickova and Ivanka

When did the KGB open a file on Donald Trump? We don’t know, but Eastern Bloc security service records suggest this may have been as early as 1977. That was the year when Trump married Ivana Zelnickova, a twenty-eight-year-old model from Czechoslovakia. Zelnickova was a citizen of a communist country. She was therefore of interest both to the Czech intelligence service, the StB, and to the FBI and CIA.

During the Cold War, Czech spies were known for their professionalism. Czech and Hungarian officers were typically used in espionage actions abroad, especially in the United States and Latin America. They were less obvious than Soviet operatives sent by Moscow.

Zelnickova was born in Zlin, an aircraft manufacturing town in Moravia. Her first marriage was to an Austrian real estate agent. In the early 1970s she moved to Canada, first to Toronto and then to Montreal, to be with a ski instructor boyfriend. Exiting Czechoslovakia during this period was, the files said, “incredibly difficult.” Zelnickova moved to New York. In April 1977 she married Trump.

According to files in Prague, declassified in 2016, Czech spies kept a close eye on the couple in Manhattan. (The agents who undertook this task were code-named Al Jarza and Lubos.) They opened letters sent home by Ivana to her father, Milos, an engineer. Milos was never an agent or asset. But he had a functional relationship with the Czech secret police, who would ask him how his daughter was doing abroad and in return permit her visits home. There was periodic surveillance of the Trump family in the United States. And when Ivana and Donald Trump, Jr., visited Milos in the Czechoslovak Socialist Republic, further spying, or “cover.”

Like with other Eastern Bloc agencies, the Czechs would have shared their intelligence product with their counterparts in Moscow, the KGB. Trump may have been of interest for several reasons. One, his wife came from Eastern Europe. Two—at a time after 1984 when the Kremlin was experimenting with perestroika, or Communist Party reform—Trump had a prominent profile as a real estate developer and tycoon. According to the Czech files, Ivana mentioned her husband’s growing interest in politics. Might Trump at some stage consider a political career?

The KGB wouldn’t invite someone to Moscow out of altruism. Dignitaries flown to the USSR on expenses-paid trips were typically left-leaning writers or cultural figures. The state would expend hard currency; the visitor would say some nice things about Soviet life; the press would report these remarks, seeing in them a stamp of approval.

Despite Gorbachev’s policy of engagement, he was still a Soviet leader. The KGB continued to view the West with deep suspicion. It carried on with efforts to subvert Western institutions and acquire secret sources, with NATO its No. 1 strategic intelligence target.

At this point it is unclear how the KGB regarded Trump. To become a full KGB agent, a foreigner had to agree to two things. (An “agent” in a Russian or British context was a secret intelligence source.) One was “conspiratorial collaboration.” The other was willingness to take KGB instruction.

According to Andrew and Gordievsky’s book Comrade Kryuchkov’s Instructions, targets who failed to meet these criteria were classified as “confidential contacts.” The Russian word was doveritelnaya svyaz. The aspiration was to turn trusted contacts into full-blown agents, an upper rung of the ladder.

As Kryuchkov explained, KGB residents were urged to abandon “stereotyped methods” of recruitment and use more flexible strategies—if necessary getting their wives or other family members to help.

As Trump tells it, the idea for his first trip to Moscow came after he found himself seated next to the Soviet ambassador Yuri Dubinin. This was in autumn 1986; the event was a luncheon held by Leonard Lauder, the businessman son of Estée Lauder. Dubinin’s daughter Natalia “had read about Trump Tower and knew all about it,” Trump said in his 1987 bestseller, The Art of the Deal.

Trump continued: “One thing led to another, and now I’m talking about building a large luxury hotel, across the street from the Kremlin, in partnership with the Soviet government.”

Trump’s chatty version of events is incomplete. According to Natalia Dubinina, the actual story involved a more determined effort by the Soviet government to seek out Trump. In February 1985 Kryuchkov complained again about “the lack of appreciable results of recruitment against the Americans in most Residencies.” The ambassador arrived in New York in March 1986. His original job was Soviet ambassador to the U.N.; his daughter Dubinina was already living in the city with her family, and she was part of the Soviet U.N. delegation.

Dubinin wouldn’t have answered to the KGB. And his role wasn’t formally an intelligence one. But he would have had close contacts with the power apparatus in Moscow. He enjoyed greater trust than other, lesser ambassadors.

Dubinina said she picked up her father at the airport. It was his first time in New York City. She took him on a tour. The first building they saw was Trump Tower on Fifth Avenue, she told Komsomolskaya Pravda newspaper. Dubinin was so excited he decided to go inside to meet the building’s owner. They got into the elevator. At the top, Dubinina said, they met Trump.

The ambassador—“fluent in English and a brilliant master of negotiations”—charmed the busy Trump, telling him: “The first thing I saw in the city is your tower!”

Dubinina said: “Trump melted at once. He is an emotional person, somewhat impulsive. He needs recognition. And, of course, when he gets it he likes it. My father’s visit worked on him [Trump] like honey to a bee.”

This encounter happened six months before the Estée Lauder lunch. In Dubinina’s account she admits her father was trying to hook Trump. The man from Moscow wasn’t a wide-eyed rube but a veteran diplomat who served in France and Spain, and translated for Nikita Khrushchev when he met with Charles de Gaulle at the Elysée Palace in Paris. He had seen plenty of impressive buildings. Weeks after his first Trump meeting, Dubinin was named Soviet ambassador to Washington.

Dubinina’s own role is interesting. According to a foreign intelligence archive smuggled to the West, the Soviet mission to the U.N. was a haven for the KGB and GRU (Soviet military intelligence). Many of the 300 Soviet nationals employed at the U.N. secretariat were Soviet intelligence officers working undercover, including as personal assistants to secretary-generals. The Soviet U.N. delegation had greater success in finding agents and gaining political intelligence than the KGB’s New York residency.

Dubinin’s other daughter, Irina, said that her late father—he died in 2013—was on a mission as ambassador. This was, she said, to make contact with America’s business elite. For sure, Gorbachev’s Politburo was interested in understanding capitalism. But Dubinin’s invitation to Trump to visit Moscow looks like a classic cultivation exercise, which would have had the KGB’s full support and approval.

In The Art of the Deal, Trump writes: “In January 1987, I got a letter from Yuri Dubinin, the Soviet ambassador to the United States, that began: ‘It is a pleasure for me to relay some good news from Moscow.’ It went on to say that the leading Soviet state agency for international tourism, Goscomintourist, had expressed interest in pursuing a joint venture to construct and manage a hotel in Moscow.”

There were many ambitious real estate developers in the United States—why had Moscow picked Trump?

According to Viktor Suvorov—a former GRU military spy—and others, the KGB ran Intourist, the agency to which Trump referred. It functioned as a subsidiary KGB branch. Initiated in 1929 by Stalin, Intourist was the Soviet Union’s official state travel agency. Its job was to vet and monitor all foreigners coming into the Soviet Union. “In my time it was KGB,” Suvorov said. “They gave permission for people to visit.” The KGB’s first and second directorates routinely received lists of prospective visitors to the country based on their visa applications.

As a GRU operative, Suvorov was personally involved in recruitment, albeit for a rival service to the KGB. Soviet spy agencies were always interested in cultivating “young ambitious people,” he said—an upwardly mobile businessman, a scientist, a “guy with a future.”

Once in Moscow, they would receive lavish hospitality. “Everything is free. There are good parties with nice girls. It could be a sauna and girls and who knows what else.” The hotel rooms or villa were under “24-hour control,” with “security cameras and so on,” Suvorov said. “The interest is only one. To collect some information and keep that information about him for the future.”

These dirty-tricks operations were all about the long term, Suvorov said. The KGB would expend effort on visiting students from the developing world, not least Africa. After 10 or 20 years, some of them would be “nobody.” But others would have risen to positions of influence in their own countries.

Suvorov explained: “It’s at this point you say: ‘Knock, knock! Do you remember the marvelous time in Moscow? It was a wonderful evening. You were so drunk. You don’t remember? We just show you something for your good memory.’”

Over in the communist German Democratic Republic, one of Kryuchkov’s 34-year-old officers—one Vladimir Putin—was busy trying to recruit students from Latin America. Putin arrived in Dresden in August 1985, together with his pregnant wife, Lyudmila, and one-year-old daughter, Maria. They lived in a KGB apartment block.

According to the writer Masha Gessen, one of Putin’s tasks was to try to befriend foreigners studying at the Dresden University of Technology. The hope was that, if recruited, the Latin Americans might work in the United States as undercover agents, reporting back to the Center. Putin set about this together with two KGB colleagues and a retired Dresden policeman

Precisely what Putin did while working for the KGB’s First Directorate in Dresden is unknown. It may have included trying to recruit Westerners visiting Dresden on business and East Germans with relatives in the West. Putin’s efforts, Gessen suggests, were mostly a failure. He did manage to recruit a Colombian student. Overall his operational results were modest.

By January 1987, Trump was closer to the “prominent person” status of Kryuchkov’s note. Dubinin deemed Trump interesting enough to arrange his trip to Moscow. Another thirtysomething U.S.-based Soviet diplomat, Vitaly Churkin—the future U.N. ambassador—helped put it together. On July 4, 1987, Trump flew to Moscow for the first time, together with Ivana and Lisa Calandra, Ivana’s Italian-American assistant.

Moscow was, Trump wrote, “an extraordinary experience.” The Trumps stayed in Lenin’s suite at the National Hotel, at the bottom of Tverskaya Street, near Red Square. Seventy years earlier, in October 1917, Lenin and his wife, Nadezhda Krupskaya, had spent a week in room 107. The hotel was linked to the glass-and-concrete Intourist complex next door and was— in effect—under KGB control. The Lenin suite would have been bugged.

Meanwhile, the mausoleum containing the Bolshevik leader’s embalmed corpse was a short walk away. Other Soviet leaders were interred beneath the Kremlin’s wall in a communist pantheon: Stalin, Brezhnev, Andropov—Kryuchkov’s old mentor—and Dzerzhinsky.

According to The Art of the Deal, Trump toured “a half dozen potential sites for a hotel, including several near Red Square.” “I was impressed with the ambition of Soviet officials to make a deal,” he writes. He also visited Leningrad, later St. Petersburg. A photo shows Donald and Ivana standing in Palace Square—he in a suit, she in a red polka dot blouse with a string of pearls. Behind them are the Winter Palace and the state Hermitage museum.

That July the Soviet press wrote enthusiastically about the visit of a foreign celebrity. This was Gabriel García Márquez, the Nobel Prize–winning novelist and journalist. Pravda featured a long conversation between the Colombian guest and Gorbachev. García Márquez spoke of how South Americans, himself included, sympathized with socialism and the USSR. Moscow brought García Márquez over for a film festival.

Trump’s visit appears to have attracted less attention. There is no mention of him in Moscow’s Russian State Library newspaper archive. (Either his visit went unreported or any articles featuring it have been quietly removed.) Press clippings do record a visit by a West German official and an Indian cultural festival.

The KGB’s private dossier on Trump, by contrast, would have gotten larger. The agency’s multipage profile would have been enriched with fresh material, including anything gleaned via eavesdropping.

Nothing came of the trip—at least nothing in terms of business opportunities inside Russia. This pattern of failure would be repeated in Trump’s subsequent trips to Moscow. But Trump flew back to New York with a new sense of strategic direction. For the first time he gave serious indications that he was considering a career in politics. Not as mayor or governor or senator.

Trump was thinking about running for president.

https://www.politico.com/magazine/story/2017/11/19/trump-first-moscow-trip-215842

Luke Harding is a foreign correspondent at the Guardian. Excerpted from the book Collusion: Secret Meetings, Dirty Money, and How Russia Helped Donald Trump Win published by Vintage Books, an imprint of The Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group, a division of Penguin Random House LLC. Copyright 2017 by Luke Harding.