The Kremlin’s Man: Donald Trump’s FISA Paranoia (Part 4 of 5)

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Michael Flynn

At this point, we are all aware of Michael Flynn's unceremonious departure from the White House as America's shortest tenured National Security Advisor in history, due to his undisclosed conversations with the Russian ambassador prior to taking office. However, that is just the tip of the iceberg with the former head of the DIA.

Flynn spoke at this event, and when asked the simple question of whether he was paid by RT (and by extension, the Kremlin), he nearly imploded trying to twist his way out of giving an answer.

After watching his bumbling response, it shouldn't come as a surprise that Flynn is so untrustworthy that the CIA took the extraordinary step to deny one of his top deputies, Robin Townley, a security clearance. Given that over a million people have top secret clearance, it speaks volumes that someone the National Security Advisor trusts cannot reach what is a fairly low bar for the standards of his office.

Flynn's December 29th phone call with ambassador Kislyak wasn't the only undisclosed contact with a person who some intelligence officials have told reporters is one of Moscow's top spies—as it was later revealed that Flynn met with Kislyak in Trump Tower along with Jared Kushner.

Again, meeting with Kislyak is not the problem, lying about it is. Because if meeting with him isn't an issue, why would you lie about it?

Paul Manafort

If someone is the target of a FISA request, it doesn't necessarily mean that they're doing some shady stuff, just that they are close enough to something important for the court to allow intelligence to piggyback off their access. Based off those two possibilities, it would be shocking if Manafort wasn't surveilled (incidentally or otherwise) at some point during his career—making him a prime target had any questionable meetings arisen during the campaign. His influence peddling is so extensive that it's easier to address the highlights via bullet points.

Manafort spent 4 years in the early 1990s lobbying on behalf of an advocacy group that is a front for Pakistani intelligence.

He was paid at least $12 million for lobbying on behalf of Vladimir Putin's Ukrainian puppet, deposed president Viktor Yanukovych.

The ledgers obtained by The New York Times are not the only ones demonstrating that Manafort was effectively paid by the Kremlin.

In 2006, he orchestrated a group of protests that forced the cancellation of a NATO exercise called Sea Breeze, which was supposed to take place on the Crimean Peninsula.

Manafort signed a $10 million deal with aluminum magnate and close Putin ally, Oleg Deprisaka in 2006.

As part of his initial pitch to Deprisaka, Manafort wrote in 2005 that “we are now of the belief that this model can greatly benefit the Putin Government if employed at the correct levels with the appropriate commitment to success,” and that the plan “will be offering a great service that can re-focus, both internally and externally, the policies of the Putin government.”

Deprisaka sued Manafort in 2009 for allegedly stealing $19 million from him.

Vladimir Putin famously said “there are no former intelligence officers.” Konstantin Kilimnik, a man who is referred to as Manafort's protégé, is one such example. He attended Soviet military school and then joined the army as a translator—a position which put him in close contact with the Russian intelligence services. When asked how he became fluent in English, Kilimnik said “Russian military intelligence.” In interviews with former employers, it was a known fact that he was Russian intelligence, as one Moscow political operative told Politico “It was like 'Kostya, the guy from the GRU' [Russian military intelligence]—that's how we talked about him.”

In a series of hacked texts, it was discovered that Andrea Manafort—Paul's Daughter—told her sister “Don't fool yourself, that money we have is blood money,” and in another exchange said that her father's “work and payment in Ukraine is legally questionable.”

Documents allegedly show that Manafort laundered money from Yanukovych's party, and by extension, the Kremlin, to himself.

U.S. law enforcement was alarmed at the frequency of intercepted phone calls from Manafort to senior Russian intelligence officials during the campaign.

Manafort was so deep into this world that can only be described as a series of Eastern European nesting dolls that an intelligence official told The New Yorker that “whether he knew it or not, Manafort was around Russian intelligence all the time.”

Roger Stone

Roger Stone is one of Trump's oldest advisors and is probably one of the closest things Trump has to a friend, but he did the president no favors when he admitted to communicating with Guccifer 2.0—a reported cutout of Russian intelligence. When asked if he communicated via direct message (all his communication was done out in the open for all the world to see) Stone gave what is now a Trump-branded “I don't recall” response to The Smoking Gun. As far as what this means in the larger Russia narrative? I'll tag in @RVAWonk, who Roger Stone called a “stupid ignorant ugly b*tch!” and let her take it from here.

If a behavioral scientist can uncover this in an afternoon scrawling the web, just imagine what our intelligence services have on this doofus.

Carter Page

Speaking of doofuses, here is our star witness, someone who has to be the dumbest person to ever obtain a PhD. If you're unfamiliar with Carter Page, here's Anderson Cooper exposing his honesty and/or competency for all the world to see.

Yowza, that interview was roughly 15 minutes long and it doesn't get any better than what you just saw. In an interview last March with The Washington Post's editorial board, Donald Trump named five foreign policy advisors—one of them being “Carter Page, PhD” who was a managing partner of an investment fund called Global Energy Capital. Julia Ioffe, a self-professed Russia wonk, surveyed a litany of her connections and found that they matched her befuddlement as to who exactly this guy was. Here is a sampling of the quotes from her piece in Politico:

“What's this guy's name?” says one former Western energy CEO who spent years in Russia, and would have overlapped there with Page.

“I had not heard of Carter Page before it came out in the media,” says another prominent Western businessman who has worked in the former Soviet Union for over two decades. “But I am getting a lot of emails from friends asking, 'Have you heard of this guy?'”

“Strangely, I've never heard of Carter Page until this Trump connection,” Bill Browder responded to me in an email. He was one of the biggest Western players in the Russian market until President Vladimir Putin turned on him and Browder became his fierce critic. “It's odd, because I've heard of every other financier who was a player on Moscow at the time.”

“I can poll any number of people involved in energy in Russia about Carter Page and they'll say, 'Carter who? You mean Jimmy Carter?'” says one veteran Western investor in Russian energy.

However, Ioffe was able to find one person familiar with Page, Mikhail Leontiev, a spokesman for Russian state oil company Rosneft, who said that Page is “an extremely well-informed, authoritative expert on Russia. People really respect him in this industry. He's a very serious guy, and he has a good reputation.”

After being named to the post, Page told Bloomberg that “so many people who I know and have worked with have been so adversely affected by the sanctions policy. There's a lot of excitement in terms of the possibilities for creating a better situation.” However, when Bloomberg asked Sergey Aleksashenko, a top Merrill executive in Russia about Page, he said “I could not imagine Carter as an adviser on foreign policy. It's really surprising.”

Page has written articles pushing Kremlin policy with Americanized analogies like his line from this piece titled “New Slaves, Global Edition: Russia, Iran and the Segregation of the World Economy.”

Kanye West released a song in 2013 entitled “New Slaves”. The lyrics start with a description of the 1950's in America: “My momma was raised in the era when, clean water was only served to the fairer skin.” After explaining various racial biases that West has experienced throughout his own life, the song refers to his direct response: “I'm about to wild the f*** out, I'm going Bobby Boucher.” It is a reference to the 1998 movie The Waterboy in which Adam Sandler's character channels his frustration from injustices in life into extraordinary performance on the football field.

His next paragraph compared Russia, Iran and China to Bobby Boucher, and the rest of the piece ran with this theme and extrapolated theories from Kanye West's songs. Seriously. You can't make this shit up. In another article that is much less flamboyant and much closer to the Kremlin tactic of tying American civil rights violations to Russian struggles, he compares the punishment of Russia for annexing Crimea to the murder of Eric Garner for selling loose cigarettes.

So yes, I stand by my assertion that this is the dumbest man to ever achieve a PhD. It's either that or he's a shameless Kremlin mouthpiece; pick your poison Carter. This “I can't comment as to whether there was a meeting because of the confidentiality agreement signed surrounding the meeting” statement backs him further into that Sophie's choice of a corner.

Like everything that has to do with Russia in Trumplandia, as soon as Page's shameless Kremlin contacts became obvious, Team Trump acted as if they never said he was one of only five foreign policy advisors initially named to the campaign—as campaign spokeswoman Hope Hicks told The Washington Post that Page was simply an “informal foreign adviser.” Per Yahoo's report:

Trump campaign spokesman Jason Miller said Page “has no role” and added: “We are not aware of any of his activities, past or present.” Miller did not respond when asked why Trump had previously described Page as one of his advisers.

Yahoo also reported that senior intelligence officials confirmed to them that Carter met with Igor Sechin, the president of Rosneft—which is documented in Christopher Steele's dossier. But after traveling to Moscow in July of 2016, Page declined to answer questions as to whether he met with Russian officials. He also told the Senate Intelligence Committee that he spent “many hours in campaign headquarters on the fifth floor last year.”

Again, this is the pattern, no matter the person in Trump's orbit. They have meetings with Russian officials that if disclosed, aren't really that big of a deal, but by outright lying about it and then later having to backtrack while fabricating the role they previously outlined, they raise far more questions than should be necessary under normal circumstances.

Carter Page was completely unknown before America's new Boy King tapped him to be a foreign policy advisor, and the only people who had ever heard of him just so happen to be on the Kremlin's payroll. I would love to believe that this is just a series of coincidences but there are so many that it invalidates the use of the term. It also doesn't look great for Page that the Senate Intelligence Committee asked him to preserve all information about his ties to Russia. Given that he is strongly implicated in the infamous dossier and that his travels to Moscow line up with when these FISA requests were reportedly filed, it would be an upset if he weren't one of the primary targets of this investigation.

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After diving into all this, it's not shocking to me at all that Trump would be nervous upon learning about a federal probe into his associates. Roger Stone clearly communicated with Wikileaks.

Michael Cohen is a lead liaison in Ukraine and he lies so often it's practically his first language. Michael Flynn was fired because he lied about his Russian connections, and Carter Page, well…the video speaks for itself with this guy.

Perhaps this is why Trump ordered his chief counsel to try to find whatever these alleged FISA orders contain, or why he asked the FBI to publicly denounce an ongoing investigation; because he may have a general idea of what they’re looking for. Devin Nunes, who eternally stapled himself to Donald Trump by running interference for him yesterday, may have provided the clearest evidence who is being targeted when he told David Corn of Mother Jones that he had never heard of Carter Page or Roger Stone. Carter Page absolutely must have come up in the intelligence community’s briefings to him, and given his very public communications with outlets that the IC alleges are Kremlin cutouts, it’s hard to imagine Stone’s name not coming up either. Nunes has either been sleeping through his intelligence briefings, or he’s a liar.

Sean Spicer further signaled who may be toxic when he called Michael Flynn a “volunteer” and said that former campaign manager Paul Manafort played a “limited role” in Trump’s campaign. These people know where the bodies are buried, and now they are distancing themselves from the clear culprits. Donald Trump’s desperate tweets on Monday prior to James Comey and Mike Rodgers’ open hearing are another tell—as this “fake Russia story” is picking up steam by the day, and Team Trump has shifted from discrediting the narrative to running away from those who helped create it. If history is any indication, it’s only a matter of time until the investigation catches up to the puppet masters distancing themselves from the Frankenstein that they no longer can control.

Part five tomorrow: A final, unified theory on what this all means.

Part one: How Donald Trump’s Own Words Connect him to Russia

Part two: How Donald Trump’s Businesses are Financed by Russian Cash

Part three: The Mysterious Deaths and Arrests of High-Level Russian Officials

Jacob Weindling is Paste’s business and media editor, as well as a staff writer for politics. Follow him on Twitter at @Jakeweindling.

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