Mike Morell served 33 years as an intelligence analyst at Langley, becoming the CIA deputy director in 2010, and serving as acting director from 2011 to 2013. When asked about Donald Trump and the Russian influence swirling around his entire operation, Morell did not mince his words:
“In the intelligence business, we would say that Putin had recruited Trump as an unwitting agent of the Russian Federation.”
You may be familiar with the term “unwitting agent” from Lenin’s characterization of them as a Useful Idiot. What Morell’s describing is a classic Soviet tactic called active measures, where both information and disinformation are disseminated through multiple outlets and spewed out in all directions. John Schindler, a former NSA spook and Naval War college professor confirmed Morell’s view when he wrote in Trump’s son-in-law’s paper, The Observer:
“During my time in the counterintelligence business, the Trump Organization came up more than once in discussions of American businesses with cozy ties to Moscow.”
Jr. probably provided them with a free tip when he told a real estate conference in 2008: “Russians make up a pretty disproportionate cross-section of a lot of our assets. We see a lot of money pouring in from Russia.”
Carter Paige, a Trump foreign policy advisor, is an investor in the state-owned Russian energy giant Gazprom, and he is very publicly critical of U.S. foreign policy. This is just one of many examples of people surrounding Trump who have deep ties to Moscow. Trump’s organization is undoubtedly connected to the Kremlin through mutual business partners, and given the people at the top of his campaign, his rhetoric, and his stated policies, it’s difficult to argue that Trump is not being influenced by the FSB (the successor to the KGB). In the current political climate, it’s not like they’re lacking the motivation.
The Russian connection is evident everywhere you look, particularly with some of the men who occupy prominent positions within the Trump campaign.
1. Michael Flynn: Foreign Policy Adviser to Trump, One-Time VP Hopeful
If you don’t believe that Vladimir Putin is trying to influence our election at all, please explain why he sat the Green Party candidate with the Republican candidate’s top foreign policy advisor, Michael Flynn, front and center at the 10th anniversary party for the Kremlin’s propaganda arm (or “conference” as Jill Stein and her childlike naifs call it).
Flynn grew up as a Democrat in Rhode Island, joined the military, and married his high school sweetheart. He has been a fierce critic of the Iraq War and is agnostic on issues like gay marriage. Sometimes he’s even funny.
But this is why the movie is never better than the book, because the surface details of this deposed intelligence officer make him look like an ideal choice for the Democratic candidate, not the Republican (or the Kremlin’s). Flynn was close to former General Stanley McChrystal, who was sacked for an article in Rolling Stone where he threw President Obama under the bus for the failures of the war McChrystal oversaw. Flynn followed him out a year before his retirement as Obama shook up the leadership at the Defense Intelligence Agency.
According to the Washington Post, Flynn threatened that he would “move or fire” employees who did not follow his “blueprint that called for sending more employees overseas, being more responsive to regional U.S. military commanders, and turning analysts’ attention from the war zones of Iraq and Afghanistan to a broader array of emerging national security threats.” Fred Kagan, a military historian, endorsed these measures, saying “I think that Flynn’s efforts to move the organization into a role supporting combatant commanders was spot on and it is where DIA should be heading.”
Given how vocal a critic Michael Flynn has been of Obama since leaving the DIA, it seems pretty clear what the driving force of the conflict is – crystal clear when you learn that the President appointed him to two positions but never met with him.
“He’s [the President] very aloof and very distant. I wasn’t on his screen at all. I wasn’t on his radar which is really sad. It’s amazing.”
Flynn was never taken as seriously as he thought he should be. DIA is the red-headed stepchild of the NSA and CIA, and it cannot remotely match their capabilities. This seems to be by design, as a former Pentagon official told WaPo: “His vision in DIA was seen as disruptive.” Flynn, he said, wanted to force his cohorts “up and out of their cubicles into the field to support war fighters or high-intensity operations. I’m not sure DIA sees itself as that.”
Unsurprisingly, when he found himself sitting across from the group he so desperately wanted to be a part of, he became increasingly antagonistic. NBC News obtained reports from four individuals with knowledge of Trump’s security briefing that Flynn continually interrupted the meeting and at one point, Chris Christie had to tell him to shut up.
Whatever the merits of each side’s arguments, Flynn is clearly disgruntled, personally offended, and looking to strike back – a Soviet bingo. There’s even a paper trail, as Flynn confirmed in his sputtering retort to Michael Isikoff’s simple question of whether he was paid for his speech at RT’s party: “What difference does that make?”
Flynn fits right in with the Trump campaign not only as an unwitting Russian stooge, but as a misogynist. The final straw at the DIA was a “Dress for Success; presentation he put together; and no, he was not requiring men to look more professional. Instead, he wanted women to avoid looking “Plain Jane,” and to wear makeup in addition to a few other rules: “No flats…Paint your nails…Brunettes have more leeway with vibrant colors than blondes or redheads.”
Since being fired, Flynn has joined Trump’s foreign policy team, altering a longstanding GOP opposition to Russia in its party platform, and has been a regular expert on RT television. We’ll probably have to talk to his “speaker’s bureau” on whether he is paid for those Kremlin-flavored appearances too.
2. Roger Stone, Former Trump Adviser, Current “Confidante,” Known Racist/Sexist
A child of the Goldwater semi-revolution, Roger Stone first gained notoriety in our nation’s capital for his opposition research in the slums of Richard Nixon’s quandaries. His most famous accomplishment was planting a spy to drive Hubert Humphrey around. He was designated as a “scheduler” by day, but according to Stone: “By night, I’m trafficking in the black arts. Nixon’s people were obsessed with intelligence.”
He worked in the Reagan campaign, and devised a plan to elect an outsider and split the vote in New York. Speaking after the statute of limitations for bribery had expired, Stone shone some light on his role in the scheme: “I paid his law firm. Legal fees. I don’t know what he did for the money, but whatever it was, the Liberal party reached its right conclusion out of a matter of principle.”
He would soon create the famed D.C. lobbying outlet Black, Manafort, and Stone. Notorious dirty trickster Lee Atwater, who once provided an enlightening window into the logic behind Nixon’s racist southern strategy, joined the firm a few years later. Stone also forged an alliance with Donald Trump, lobbying on behalf of his casinos. Given how few friends Trump seems to have, Stone may be his oldest one.
Recently, Stone struck up a partnership with Julian Assange of Wikileaks to go after the Clintons, warning all of us two weekends ago that the following Wednesday would be momentous:
The DNC hack has effectively removed all doubt that Wikileaks is attached to the Kremlin in some way. The timeline of events leading to their evolution from a broke whistleblowing firm to FSB disinformation outlet is pretty clear, as I detailed in my longread on Snowden being an unwitting Russian agent:
Towards the end of , Wikileaks threatened that they would release documents on powerful individuals in Russia, and according to their spokesperson, Kristinn Hrafnsson “Russian readers will learn a lot about their country.” An official from the FSB responded “It’s essential to remember that given the will and the relevant orders, [WikiLeaks] can be made inaccessible forever.”
The documents never came out. Two years later, Julian Assange had his own show on Russia Today, the Kremlin’s West-facing propaganda outlet. Wikileaks even sent a delegation to meet Bashar al-Assad, a President only two major countries support (Russia and Iran). While stuck in in the Ecuadorian embassy in London, Assange stated in a press release that he requested Russian security.
And if you still doubt that he’s in bed with Putin, watch Assange not deny that charge to Bill Maher and then later take credit for “saving Edward Snowden’s ass” in Hong Kong.
Wikileaks’ Wednesday bombshell was simply a press conference promoting its 10th anniversary and its new book. Trump supporter and founder of Infowars Alex Jones—a man both literally and metaphorically frothing at the mouth for conspiracies—ranted that “Julian Assange trolling the world is Hillary’s October surprise. He was promising this damning evidence and he doesn’t release it now 34 days out and now he’s saying he’ll release it by the end of the year so that smacks of a sell-out.”
Which brings up an important point made by Russian experts like Ben Nimmo of the Atlantic Council: Russian interference in the election is not about supporting Trump, but subverting the US establishment and promoting Russian policy. Trump is just the beneficiary of most of it since he also aims to destroy the United States government. Given that Stone wrote a book titled “The Clinton’s War on Women,” all Assange had to do was throw some chum out in the form of yet another “did the Clinton’s murder a whistleblower?” nonsense, and Stone would tweet him a meme.
Earlier this year, he had Trump’s friend Jesse Ventura on his radio show, who practically stapled his lips to Putin’s ass live on air:
“It’s interesting because I’m going to work for the Russians. I’ve just signed a contract with RT America so I’ll be working for Russian television because ironically they’re the only people who will let me on and let me speak freely and openly. I lived through the entire Cold War and now I’m going to be working for the Russians who are giving me free speech.”
Stone, who also appears on the Kremlin’s propaganda network concurred: “I’ve had the same experience with RT.” Always comforting to see a major presidential advisor admire a country Freedom House classified as “not a free” country, and one that got even less free this past year.
3. Paul Manafort, Former Campaign Manager
If Paul Manafort were in House of Cards, he would spend most of his scenes working with Frank Underwood’s man who makes all things disappear, Doug Stamper. Borne out of the Reagan Revolution, Manafort built not one but two white-shoe D.C. lobbying firms. Prior to playing one of the kingmakers in our capital, he traversed a familiar path. His various job titles are emblematic of the nebulous sausage that is our system of governance: delegate-hunt coordinator, southern coordinator, deputy political director, Associate Director of the Presidential Personnel Office, and a board member of the Overseas Private Investment Corporation.
All those gigs point to one commonality that Snoop Dogg can elaborate on:
As he worked his way up, he got closer to those people who robbed some people, and soon began to work for them. The list of clients he’s served looks like a case file right out of the International Court of Justice. A sampling includes Philippine dictator Ferdinand Marcos, international arms dealer El-Assir, and Congolese dictator Mobutu Sese Seko, and that was just at his old lobbying shop.
Once a staple around K Street, Manafort completely dropped off the radar after Obama’s election in 2008. In addition to reportedly earning at least $12.7 million advising Putin’s Ukranian puppet, deposed Prime Minister Viktor Yanukovych, he also worked for oligarchs like Dmytro Firtash (who the US sought to extradite in a bribery scandal), Oleg Deripaska (currently battling lawsuits over Manafort aided deals), and the king of all Ukranian kings, Rinat Akhmetov, who introduced him to Yanukovych in the first place.
Paul Manafort takes his job very seriously, as he demonstrated to Congress in 1989 after he was implicated in a scandal involving HUD funds being diverted to a downtrodden New Jersey real estate development:
“You might call it influence-peddling. I call it lobbying.”
Politico reported that John McCain considered bringing him on as an advisor in 2008, but ultimately backed away because of his work inside one of Putin’s nesting dolls. He was a big enough player that in 2012, U.S. Ambassador to Ukraine John Tefft told Ukrainska Pravda he met with Manafort. He owns lavish houses on multiple continents, and nearly all of this century’s revenue is derived from the Russian side of Europe’s geopolitical version of the San Andreas fault. Just because he left the campaign does not mean his influence has, especially since Roger Stone is still hanging around and tweeting.
Even outside the big players, the general rhetoric around Trump reflects a pro-Russian agenda—especially the rhetoric from the candidate himself. Here are ten statements or talking points from the Trump campaign that are standard Kremlin lines.
1. “Google search engine was suppressing the bad news about Hillary Clinton.”
Putting aside the fact that Trump talks about technology with the same understanding and conviction as a toddler babbling about quantum mechanics, he recently pushed a widely debunked conspiracy theory that has Kremlin origins. Julian Assange declared Google to be Hillary’s “secret weapon.” Sputnik, the Kremlin’s version of Breitbart, is the primary driver of this lie that has gained traction on both sides.
2. “And I hope the Republicans are watching closely or it’s going to be taken away from us.”
Trump is the neighborhood kid who nobody wants to play sports with because he cries foul on every play. Even if he’s just being a petulant child because he’s unable to cite the polls every third sentence, he’s still spreading one of the most dangerous Kremlin lies. If we walk away from this election with the sense that the outcome was predetermined, it doesn’t matter which candidate won, because Putin ultimately did. This is the philosophical center of his propaganda, as he reminded all of us when he chided Fareed Zakaria for allegedly misquoting him on Trump:
“As a side note, America teaches everybody else, how to live with their lessons in ‘democracy’ – but do you actually believe the U.S. elections are democratic?”
3. 2016: Hillary Conquers the Stairs
This was a fairly embarrassing moment as Breitbart, Drudge, and the rest of the online outlets backing Trump gobbled up a recycled photo that first made the rounds over in Russia. The picture in question is presented as a recent image of a faint Hillary Clinton being buoyed by Secret Service, when it really was taken in February and the stairs were just icy. This is the tip of the “Hillary has a secret disease” iceberg, much of which has been stirred up by Kremlin outlets (then parroted by Alex Jones and, ultimately, Trump).
4. 9/11 was a False Flag Operation
This is another Kremlin favorite, as any doubt sown in our minds about the most traumatic day of our collective national life can only benefit our enemies. There’s no way in hell our government is competent enough to pull this off AND keep it a secret. Russia Today ran a feature about this theory back in 2009.
5. “I hope you’re able to find the 30,000 emails that are missing.”
Nothing to see here, just a potential future President looking right into the camera and ordering the Kremlin to commit a felony against a former Secretary of State.
6. “[Obama]’s the founder of ISIS.”
This one is central to the Russian strategy in Syria, as local populations are presented with the choice of siding with a murderous regime who hopes to one day stop slaughtering innocents, a murderous regime whose modus operandi is slaughtering innocents, and supposedly their founders. By discrediting American aid, the Russians funnel the local populace towards their only ally in the region: Bashar al-Assad.
7. “The people of Crimea, from what I’ve heard, would rather be with Russia than where they were.”
Now we’re getting into the really damning evidence, as dismantling NATO is the centerpiece of Putin’s foreign policy.
8. “He’s not going into Ukraine.”
Dude, even Russia finally copped to setting up shop in Ukraine. This legendary exchange with George Stephanopoulos left the ABC anchor perplexed, exclaiming “well he’s already there, isn’t he?” Trump stammered: “OK, well, he’s there in a certain way, but I’m not there yet. You have Obama there.” This is yet another Kremlin line, as John Schindler wrote:
“As someone who has been sharply critical of this White House’s dithering policy in Ukraine, let me state clearly that the only people who blame Obama for Putin’s annexation of Crimea are Kremlin propagandists, usually of the paid variety.”
Former CIA Director Michael Hayden said his logic on Crimea is “devoid of facts and divorced from traditional American, traditionally European policy.”
9. “I don’t mind NATO per se”
Neither does Putin…per se, as he told parliament:
“Above all, we should acknowledge that the collapse of the Soviet Union was a major geopolitical disaster of the century. As for the Russian nation, it became a genuine drama. Tens of millions of our co-citizens and co-patriots found themselves outside Russian territory. Moreover, the epidemic of disintegration infected Russia itself.”
Many of those “co-citizens and co-patriots” who “found themselves outside Russian territory” include major NATO partners like Poland. With his attitude towards NATO and his statements on Crimea, Trump is essentially endorsing Putin’s philosophical rationale for invading Eastern Europe.
10. “Lethal defensive weapons” becoming “appropriate assistance.”
To use a topical turn of phrase: This is the trump card.
All the smoke surrounding the men at the top of Trump’s campaign leads us to the fire they set on the GOP platform. This column is no longer just informed conjecture. We have a meaningful alteration to a longstanding policy that truly does dictate what aid we are willing to provide Ukraine in the event of an invasion. If this isn’t doing Putin’s work, I don’t know what is. According to Schindler, top security officials in the Baltics are so convinced of this fact that they refer to the Republican nominee as “the Kremlin’s man.”
This political ad does a pretty decent job of walking you through how Trump could theoretically become an unwitting Russian agent. Putin flatters him by complimenting his intelligence, and because Trump has no guiding principles and is only driven by the ego of a 6-year-old, he becomes putty in the crafty dictator’s hands.
The most attractive shade of defector is a disgruntled one, as no external motivation is required to carry out the espionage. Someone who’s too stupid to realize they’re defecting is next on the list. Trump is a buffoon who can be manipulated by any SIGINT professional, and he’s surrounded himself with a lot of old and tired men currently on the Kremlin’s payroll. Whether it’s intentional or not, the Trump camp is definitely covering some of Russia’s greatest hits.
Trump’s leaked 1995 tax return exposed a nearly $1 billion loss, and confirms what we suspected about his multiple bankruptcies in the early 90’s (a period he bloviated was “almost as bad as the Great Depression of 1929”). Every analyst who examines his financial records and every foreman who’s ever worked with him confirm the same thing: When Trump takes a hit, he leaves someone else with the bill.
It’s very likely that after he lost a few fortunes running a rigged business, all his credit dried up. Trump still clearly had some way to keep the Trump brand going, and Russian creditors are a very logical choice for someone with Russian clients who needs seven figures fast and can’t find it in the states. If he did chart a path across the Pacific for new credit, given the giant manbaby’s lack of business acumen, savvy, basic human intelligence and emotion, it’s not far-fetched to envision Trump getting squeezed by a plethora of oligarchs unburdened by the civility of the nation he aims to lead.