Call your Senators and tell them to insist a vote on the Kavanaugh nomination by the Senate Judiciary Committee be postponed until the sexual assault allegation can be fully evaluated.
Everyone knew Brent Kavanaugh was an extremely conservative judge when he was nominated, raising serious questions about the future of Roe v. Wade, the pre-existing coverage provision of the ACA, affirmative action and the ability of a prosecutor to force a president to comply with a subpoena.
Most Republicans have appeared willing to ignore these issues and rush through an approval of Kavanaugh, without receiving most of his records, and despite apparent inconsistencies in his testimony with the documents the committee has received. Senator Chuck Grassley (R-IA) chairman of the Judiciary Committee, has scheduled a vote for Thursday.
However, a new and very troubling issue has arisen. A woman has come forward with a highly credible claim that Kavanaugh sexually assaulted her while they were in high school. Kavanaugh has categorically denied the claim. However, the woman’s claim is bolstered by the records of a therapist with whom she discussed the lingering trauma years ago and by a polygraph she took last week.
Many Democrats and at least two Republican Senators, Senator Jeff Flake (R-CO), who is on the Judiciary Committee, and Senator Bob Corker (R-TN) have called for the committee vote to be delayed so that the claims of the accuser can be evaluated.
This is [NAME] and I’m a constituent in [ZIP].
I urge [Sen.____] to insist any vote on the Kavanaugh nomination be postponed until the sexual assault allegation can be fully evaluated.
The accusation has credibility and, if true, should disqualify Kavanaugh from sitting on the Supreme Court. Inconsistencies in Kavanaugh’s testimony already call his character into question, and it would be a travesty to confirm him to the Supreme Court without fully evaluating this credible claim of sexual assault.
Call your Senators at (202)224-3121 and tell them to vote NO on Judge Brett Kavanaugh for the Supreme Court.
Everyone knew Brett Kavanaugh was an extremely conservative judge when he was nominated, raising serious questions about the future of Roe v. Wade, the pre-existing coverage provision of the ACA, affirmative action and the ability of a prosecutor to force a president to comply with a subpoena. The reversal of these settled cases would have profound implications on Americans’ well-being. And Kavanaugh’s views on whether the president is essentially above the law could have additional profound implications for Special Counsel Mueller’s investigation.
There are many Republican Senators who would welcome adverse rulings on some of these policy items. However, no Democratic Senator supports reversing these Supreme Court rulings and some Republican Senators also favor upholding existing precedents on one or more of these issues.
In an effort to disguise Kavanaugh’s record and muddy the waters on whether he would respect these existing precedents, Trump and the GOP leadership has withheld an unprecedented number of Kavanaugh’s records. Of the those records shown to the committee, some were designated as “committee confidential,” meaning Democratic Senators who release them or reference them in questions risk being stripped of their Senate seat.
Democrats have forced the release of at least some of these documents – literally risking their Senate seats to do so. It is easy to see why GOP leadership attempted to hide many of these documents as they make it clear that Kavanaugh has misrepresented his positions in meetings with Senators and in the hearings this week. The document release also makes it clear there are controversial matters from his Bush years that Kavanaugh has denied being involved with, under oath, when he was in fact involved; and it appears he committed perjury in some of these instances.
This is [NAME] and I’m a constituent in [ZIP].
I urge [Sen.____] to vote No on Kavanaugh for the Supreme Court.
Kavanaugh does not belong on the Supreme Court. His testimony and documents show several instances that appear to be perjury, which lead to serious concerns of corruption. They also show he has not been straightforward about:
whether a president can be investigated or subpoenaed;
Roe v. Wade;
whether the ACA pre-existing conditions requirement is Constitutional; and
There are several main channels of influence that Moscow uses to undermine Western democracy. Among them are propaganda (both broadcasting media to foreign audiences and bribing the local media), bribing officials and politicians, building corrupt ties through business lobbies, and working with various segments of the population to exacerbate friction as well as dissatisfaction and conflicts, which exist in all societies.
Vladimir Putin, meanwhile, continues to stubbornly ensure that Russian propaganda broadcasts two mutually exclusive theses: “It’s not us” and “We are just defending ourselves.” Russian authorities, and after them the media, have for several years successfully proven to the population that any meanness and crime are justified by the unprecedented state of “external threat.”
They assure that the United States is to blame for all that Russia does today because they “organized” the orange revolution at the Russian border, supported and continue to support the opposition, cultivate a “fifth column,”“lobby their interests in Russia” and so on. Thus, Russia is trying to prove that its actions are only a “mirror image” of Western foreign policy. However, this statement is absolutely untrue.
The Russian threat is incalculably more destructive and terrible than the activities of the United States. Apart from espionage which all great states conduct, I shall attempt to concentrate on the differences in so-called “soft power.” These differences manifest themselves as follows: Read More
1. Different goals.
The “soft power” used by the USA in Eastern Europe and Russia throughout the period following the fall of the USSR was not intended to destroy the target countries. Quite the opposite: the democratic institutions the United States tried to introduce into the post-Soviet space, had they been fully enacted, would have led to notable improvements in the development of the country and the standard of living. This includes anti-corruption initiatives and attempts to create a transparent and independent judiciary, as well as procedures to insure the fairness of elections, etc.
Throughout my last years in Russia I maintained close ties to supporters of human rights in my native Urals, and I can confirm that the grant projects implemented by local human rights defenders and supported by foreign funds were in accordance with their officially announced goals. Moreover, if the USA really wanted to “destroy Russia” as averred by Kremlin propaganda, it would have been fully possible to do so in the 90’s. However, rather than this, America provided colossal assistance to Russia, both material and institutional.
In contrast, Moscow does not conceal its view of the USA as its main, deadly and irreconcilable enemy, the essence of evil, the creator of international terrorism, and the primary threat to the very existence of Russia.
Therefore, the Russian authorities set as their task to weaken the USA and Europe to the greatest possible extent, to undermine Western democracy, to destroy existing institutions with one overriding goal – to render these countries one way or another dependent on the Kremlin and incapable of resisting Russian aggression in Eastern Europe.
Russia has no interest in introducing any constructive institutions or positive changes in the West; it wants to convert the mass media into a source of propaganda and fake news, and convert business into a criminally corrupt mechanism to spread its influence and self-serving lobbying. Even the supposedly positive goals announced by Moscow turn out to be lies; not a single positive program exists in today’s Russia. This is why the Kremlin supports any, often mutually exclusive, ideologies and trends that could lead to the collapse of the “enemy” country.
For example, by wholly supporting Trump and his battle against key American institutions, Moscow also supports the man who claims to be Trump’s irreconcilable enemy who calls for the secession of California from the USA – Louis Marinelli. The goal of Russian influence is the absolute destruction of the West.
2. Difference in methods.
The United States uses “soft power” in a transparent way, consistent with democratic principles and its stated goals. America attempts to translate American values via mass media, the activities of NGO’s (including grants for foreign organizations), the possibility of foreign internships, educational programs, etc. Russian political scientists use almost the same channels of influence over Western societies with the difference that Russia does not create values for those it takes under its wing, but rather fear – and false fear, at that. Fear, hatred, and lies such as “Ukrainian fascism” or “American aggression” – these are the basic products of Russian propaganda.
The basic methodology of Kremlin propagandists is not to introduce positive examples or concrete models for development, as is the practice of Western countries, but rather to take advantage of any compromising material, disagreement, human fallibility, hatred, prejudice or fear, etc.
They use stereotypes, name calling, the demonization of certain groups of people, the destruction of identities, the creation of false templates and clichés that make it difficult for people to regard one another objectively.
As a result, even the most insignificant contradictions are taken as insurmountable, and completely natural difficulties are presented as catastrophes. The distortion of reality and drawing various political and social forces into a war of everybody against everybody else – this has always been the favorite method for destabilization used by Russian special services.
One should not discard from consideration the criminally corrupt contacts developed by Russian business, hacker attacks and false information intended to destroy the very concept of truth itself. And possibly the most important difference from the USA is the use by Russia of criminals and terrorists for military purposes, especially in Europe. Even without taking into account the unproven suspicion of many experts concerning possible contacts with ISIS by Russian intelligence, it is sufficient to cite the example of the annexation of Crimea, the war in Donbass, and preparations for the unsuccessful coup in Montenegro to confirm that international terrorism in Europe has become the norm for today’s Russia.
3. A tendency toward conspiracy.
It is important to remember that Russia is a totalitarian state headed by former special service operatives, above all the KGB. It is the FSB that controls the majority of social organizations, mass media, all big business, expatriate organizations abroad, many cultural programs, funds, etc. The suspicion any given Russian structure serves as a conduit for Kremlin policy, thus having no independence, is completely justifiable because suspicions of conspiracy, recruitment, and similar activity has frequently been used by Russian special services in relations with their “partners.”
This is why the Russians very often judge western countries according to their own Russian perspective. Former KGB officers simply are incapable of imagining the existence of independent mass media, a strong civil society with a plethora of social organizations free from government interference, uncensored creative arts, an independent judiciary, etc. Therefore, the spread of Russian propaganda and western adherents of conspiracy theories about a “world government” or a “deep state” in the USA are laughable lies or conscious projections by Moscow of its own operating style, manifested domestically with a very different society and state that exists according to its own laws.
It is obvious that the Russian threat demands a serious response from western society because, using all the advantages of the free world, Moscow resorts to methods that are unacceptable for western governments. And such a threat merits an adequate response.
Call your Republican representative and tell them to vote NO on Rosenstein contempt. Read More
Rep. Bob Goodlatte (R-VA), Rep. Jim Jordan (R-OH) and Rep. Devin Nunes (R-CA) never expected their July threat to impeach Deputy AG Rod Rosenstein to succeed. It was a procedural move that didn’t require Speaker Paul Ryan’s (R-WI) consent. However, it would not have passed the House and certainly never received the necessary 2/3 vote in the Senate to remove Rosenstein. However, a failed impeachment vote would embarrass Ryan and the GOP close to the midterms.
The plan all along has been to leverage the threat of an impeachment vote into a vote on holding Rosenstein in contempt of Congress, which requires Ryan’s cooperation. Ryan caved and agreed that when the House returns from recess after Labor Day, Goodlatte can move forward with a contempt hearing in the House Judiciary Committee he chairs if he determines Rosenstein has not fully complied with the unprecedented GOP House subpoena seeking confidential information about the on-going Russia investigation. It is nearly certain Goodlatte will determine Rosenstein has not complied and that his committee will rubber stamp his determination, sending the matter to the full House for a vote.
If the House holds Rosenstein in contempt, Trump will use it as a pretext to fire Rosenstein and replace him with a loyalist who will strangle the Mueller investigation. Rosenstein is “Mueller’s boss” and his replacement would have enormous power to stifle the investigation.
A contempt vote in the House is likely in early September. All House Democrats will vote against it. We will need 22 Republicans to also vote against it to protect Rosenstein and preserve the Mueller investigation.
If you have a Republican representative, call them and tell them they must vote NO on any attempt to impeach Rosenstein.
This is [NAME] and I’m a constituent in [ZIP].
I want [Rep. ____] to vote No on any attempt to hold Deputy AG Rosenstein in contempt.
A vote for contempt is a vote to kill the Mueller investigation. Mueller must be allowed to complete his investigation.
There was substantial election fraud in 2016. Trouble is, it seems he was the one who committed it.
In an unprecedented debacle of a day in presidential history, on Tuesday Paul Manafort, Mr. Trump’s campaign manager, was convicted on eight counts of financial crimes. A few scant moments later, Michael Cohen, Trump’s personal lawyer, plead guilty to eight criminal charges, including two where he directly implicated the president in felony violations of campaign laws. According to Cohen, Trump was directly involved in arranging hush money payments to women, including porn stars, with whom he allegedly had extramarital affairs, and he did this to affect the results of the 2016 presidential election.
Yes, President Donald Trump is now officially an unindicted co-conspirator. Moreover Lanny Davis, Cohen’s attorney, then suggested that Cohen may have information about Trump committing crimes involving collusion with the Russian government to secure the presidency.
And what effect did all this have on Trump’s behavior? Very little. The next morning the president took to twitter and attacked Cohen while praising Manafort. He even stated that Cohen “plead guilty to two counts of campaign finance violations that are not a crime.” I suspect such “legal” analysis would not be very convincing to either Cohen or Special Counsel Robert Mueller. And of course, he once again called this investigation, which has already either directly or indirectly netted SEVEN criminal convictions, a “witch hunt.” This doesn’t even include the indictments of sitting Congressmen Chris Collins and Duncan Hunter. They were Trump’s first two supporters on the Hill. It seems there are a lot of witches in Washington these days.
But the larger question is where this leaves our country. Trump has been directly connected with these two grave misdeeds, whether he believes the conduct is illegal or not, and there has been rampant suggestion that he is involved in many more.
The hacks into the Clinton campaign and distribution of the emails. The infamous meeting with the Russians in Trump Tower and the subsequent cover ups and lies. Potential obstruction of justice over firing FBI Director James Comey and continually pressuring the Justice Department to end the Mueller investigation. If one “third-rate burglary” was enough to take down President Nixon, what are we to make of all these allegations against Trump? Especially when so much of his conduct is already public record; and while that is not dispositive, it sure seems to indicate that Trump committed multiple crimes.
In 1999, Senator Lindsay Graham, then a Congressman, argued passionately that a president could be removed from office even if he had not committed a crime. Of course, that was when impeachment proceedings were pending against Democratic President Bill Clinton. Graham is a Republican. Now that it’s a Republican president desperately treading water to avoid drowning in a cesspool of criminal activity, Graham demurs, citing a lack of charges involving collusion between the Trump campaign and the Russian government. And let us not forget, Clinton’s conduct, though sordid, tawdry and thoroughly improper, was not done with an intent to influence the election. All of Trump’s actions were performed to affect election results or cover up possible crimes involving the election.
It is not surprising that Graham changed his tune. After all, he was likely wrong in 1999, as the Constitution states that a president may be impeached if he commits “Treason, Bribery or other high Crimes or Misdemeanors.” However, that seems to be beside the point for Graham, and most members of Congress. No, their issue isn’t one of Constitutional semantics. It’s instead the fact that Trump is on their team, and he’s their cleanup hitter. So while Graham called Trump a “kook” and said he was “not fit to be President” during the 2016 campaign, he now gives Trump a pass on conduct that was far worse than anything Bill Clinton imagined, and even praises him. Republican leaders Marco Rubio and Ted Cruz have done the same. Cruz even wrote a gushing tribute to Trump for Time Magazine.
If there were a Democratic majority in Congress, this attitude by influential GOP members wouldn’t mean very much. A Democratic Congress would likely do its job, fulfill its Constitutional mandate, act as the co-equal branch of the American government that it is and determine whether impeachment articles should now be drafted. Instead, we see the president arguing that he has the power to act as his own judge and shut this incredibly prolific investigation down, musing about pardoning potential witnesses against him, defaming members of the investigation team and openly questioning whether crime is crime while watching his spokesperson saying truth isn’t truth.
Since the GOP is in charge, however, we have this president – conceivably so steeped in Russian interference with our election that many suspect Vladimir Putin controls him – continuing to enact controversial and even downright immoral policies.
And Congress has not done much, if anything, to stop him. Worse, they may compound the problem by going forward with the nomination of Brett Kavanaugh to the Supreme Court. Kavanaugh, lest we forget, has questioned whether the Supreme Court decision in the Watergate case that ultimately led to Nixon’s resignation was correctly decided; written that a president should not be subject to criminal investigations while in office; and argued that a president has the authority to fire a Special Counsel.
Will Congress allow a president, facing inquiries into whether he committed criminal conduct, to fire the man investigating him, and will they approve the appointment of a Supreme Court Justice hand-picked by that same president? Would they do it knowing that this Justice has previously written that the president has the power to discharge the team investigating his misconduct and still avoid prosecution? Or do their pronouncements that “we are a nation of laws” really mean “the laws don’t apply to everybody, and we get to pick and choose who has to follow them and who doesn’t”? During the Obama presidency, while successfully blocking the Supreme Court nomination of Merrick Garland, Ted Cruz cited historical precedent of the Supreme Court hearing cases with only eight members to justify this shameful Senate inaction. Will he apply that standard now, when the appointment is made by a president swaddled in scandal, or will he be cheering his team on as they denude democracy?
Looming gigantically over the both the president and Congress is the potentially game-changing question of whether Michael Cohen will cooperate with Mueller. Cohen was employed by the Trump organization for over a decade. Trump described Cohen as “my personal lawyer.” Cohen was involved in numerous real estate deals, including the putative transaction for Trump Tower Moscow. We can only imagine what he might know about Trump’s dealings with Russian nationals and what might be in – or conveniently omitted from – Trump’s taxes. While Trump tried to deny he had any dealings with Russians, Reuters reported that they had invested $100 million in Trump properties and Donald Trump Jr. admitted in 2008 that “Russians make up a pretty disproportionate cross-section of a lot of our assets. We see a lot of money pouring in from Russia.” These could all be legitimate business transactions, but there’s so much smoke swirling around Trump and Russia, and he’s lied so frequently, that’s it’s almost impossible to grant him the presumption of innocence. As Shakespeare wrote, the truth will out; when it does, those in power will make their judgments. Hopefully the umps won’t be swayed by any hometown crowds. But it gets harder each day to imagine a Republican majority doing anything other than avoiding the press and occasionally clucking their tongues while failing to reign in a president who would be king.
Finally (and doesn’t it seem that this always comes last) there is the question of how this will affect the populace. There are national elections in 2018 and 2020. The people will have a chance to make their voice heard. Does any of this make an impression upon them? Do people care about the rank corruption that seems to permeate throughout the newly-formed Trump GOP? His supporters don’t seem to mind. They keep electing his acolytes in primaries, regardless of whether they represent failed policies as in Kansas, brandish firearms at people as in Georgia, or pal around with far right conspiracy theorists as in Arizona. Polling suggests that Democrats will capture the House but not the Senate. Will Kavanaugh then get through? Will that grant Trump his “get out of jail free” card?
Or, with or without Trump’s help, can Russia actually rig our elections? If they can, which party will they favor? Because creating a Congress divided sharply along party lines might help them more than full Republican control.
Donald Trump famously pledged to “drain the swamp.” Instead, he packed it with rats, mined it for natural gas, erected an oil rig and set it on fire. And, much like the havoc such a disaster would wreak on the environment, our political climate will invariably be harmed.
In 2015, I wrote an article in which I explored the primary methods that Russian propaganda uses to try to discredit the Russian opposition, and also the major mistakes made by the Russian opposition in countering the propaganda. Now, against the backdrop of Donald Trump’s presidency, arguably the largest opposition movement in the modern history of the U.S. has emerged. Russian propaganda, often amplified by Trump and the U.S. right-wing media, is also being used against the American opposition movement to Trumpism. This article explores the vulnerabilities in America’s resistance movement, and how they are both similar and different to the opposition movement in Russia. Read More
1. Attitude towards patriotism.
I have noted on many occasions that one of the most successful tactics of domestic Russian propaganda has been the imposition of false associative series, templates and clichés that not only cause clashes between different groups, but also cause clashes of different identities within individuals.
Kremlin propaganda tries hard to drive a person into a very narrow identity, thus cutting off the ability of associating oneself with several different groups at the same time, or even forcing a person to assume false identity.
One of the most striking examples of such tactics in Russia was contrasting the terms “liberal” and “patriot” and creating a stereotype that “a liberal cannot be a patriot.” Unfortunately, the liberal intelligentsia in Russia has largely succumbed to this stereotype and accepted the Kremlin framing that one cannot be both a liberal and a patriot. In recent years, a number of figures in the Russian opposition movement have been trying to get away from this cliché, but these attempts have not yet met with success.
Similar tactics are used by the right-wing media outlets in the United States, which, through the imposition of false labels, distort the picture of reality. Thus, the supporters of Donald Trump try to bet on patriotism, stressing that they are the only “real patriots” of America, whereas Trump’s opponents are, in Soviet terms, “rootless cosmopolitans”(or in American terms, coastal elites) who secretly hate their country and periodically burn the American flag.
To the credit of the American opposition, it has for the most part avoided this trap. On the contrary, most people who oppose Trump emphasize that their opposition is based on patriotic motives. However, some representatives of the extreme left, primarily the radical anarchist groups, certainly took the victory of Donald Trump as an excuse to strengthen their anti-government stance and amplify their favorite thesis that modern America is evil and represents the forces of oppression. Representatives of this movement are relatively few, but right-wing propaganda successfully uses them at every opportunity to illustrate their thesis, and tries to portray them as representative of the opposition. Russian “trolls” also actively use these examples of the radical left to deepen chasms in American society.
It is interesting that the extreme right-wing American nationalist groups also view modern America as an absolute evil, and call for secession from it, including through a bloody civil war. Such views are held, for example, by the organization “League of the South“, which is openly sympathetic to Russia and even created a section in Russian on its website. However, against the backdrop of the Trump administration’s periodic “flirting” with the nationalists, the anti-state rhetoric of the far right is now declining, while separatist and radical tendencies on the left side of the spectrum, are, on the contrary, intensifying as a natural protest against the rhetoric coming from the White House. Key U.S. institutions, such as the Department of Justice and U.S. intelligence services, often end up being hit from both sides – the president and far-left radicals.
2. False “politicization” of criticism.
Trump’s right-wing propaganda has had more success in spreading other clichés, in particular, attributing to all of his opponents certain political views and distorting those views.
A similar tactic is used in Russia, where all of Vladimir Putin’s opponents are called “liberals.” This word in the minds of “Putin’s majority” is associated, thanks to propaganda, with “foreign agents” who dream of “plundering Russia” and plunging it into chaos and poverty on the orders of their “overseas masters”. In turn, right-wing propaganda in the United States often seeks to present the opposition movement exclusively as left-wing – a kind of “communist plot” that aims to destroy America with open borders and the destruction of capitalism.
As noted earlier, this picture is very far from reality. The Democratic Party is a broad coalition of people of along a wide spectrum of different views, and its extreme left-wing is relatively small. In fact, much of the American “left” is often to the right of the European socialists in their views – not to mention the Communists.
Although right-wing propaganda works to attribute opposition to Trump in strictly partisan terms, it is extremely inaccurate to reduce anti-Trump feelings strictly to political differences. Trump is criticized by people of many different views, including national security specialists and special service veterans, who, because of their work, often do not have any party sympathies. Moreover, a small but significant part of the Republican Party, especially at the level of ordinary members and party intellectuals, categorically rejected Trump early on. Suffice it to say, that it is for this reason that some formerly loyal Republicans broke away from the party and created an alternative conservative movement.
3. The need to talk with people about acute social problems.
Unfortunately, the Russian opposition realized the need to focus on some acute problems of many ordinary Russians until quite late. The American opposition still has a chance to capture the attention of the “heartland,” speaking about the problems of the American middle and lower-middle class which crosses racial and gender lines. For example, several media outlets noted that some of Trump’s policies may lead to job losses, and “trade wars” usually lead to lowering of living standards.
Trump’s demagoguery and the simplicity of his fear-driven solutions can be difficult to counter because real solutions are often complex. However, the American opposition needs to articulate real solutions to these problems impacting much of the middle and lower middle class of the country across racial and gender lines. If not, demagogues will fill the void with simplistic and fear-driven ideas pitting groups against each either.
4. The disunity of the opposition.
The American opposition is broader and deeper than the Russian opposition. On the one hand, the large-scale nature of the American opposition is a definite plus and enables people of different political views to unite around common, fundamental values. On the other hand, in practice such unification is very difficult. The symbols of patriotism have frequently been associated mainly with conservatives and many Americans have taken little interest in national security issues, leaving those to the experts. Core patriotic topics related to freedoms in America – freedom of religion, speech, press and assembly have been largely taken for granted. This results in more unifying patriotic topics often being replaced by a political agenda.
It is fair to say that the foundation for this confusion was laid by Donald Trump himself, when he called political opponents “traitors” for refusing to applaud him. However, the use of the labels “traitors” and “enemies of the people” has also been picked up at the other end of the ideological spectrum, and fanned by propaganda.
So-called “radical progressives” are too often ready to declare as enemies their fellow members of the “resistance” if they hold different views. American experts have noted that an effort to widen the differences and discord between more progressive and more moderate democrats is now becoming the main target of Russian “trolls”, which, according to analysts, continue to operate quite successfully in the American information space.
Nevertheless, the American opposition still has every chance to overcome the schisms and not repeat the mistakes of their Russian counterparts. Despite all the heterogeneity and lack of a common agenda, at least it is not marginal and, in fact, represents the majority of American society. Another important difference of this American opposition is that it is formed “from bottom up,” based on civil initiative, and not on the instructions of political leaders. However, because the ideological spectrum is so wide and the U.S. operates on a party system, unless the leadership of the Democratic party nominates sufficiently popular figures, the views of this majority of citizens will not be represented in government.
For the past several weeks, Maria Butina, a Russian national who was arrested in the U.S. on July 15, has not left the front pages of the American media.
On July 18, a grand jury formally indicted Maria Butina on two charges: conspiracy and acting as a foreign agent.
Veterans of the Soviet and American intelligence services have tried to sort out whether the activist is a real spy or just one of the sources for the Russian special services. Read More
A professional or an amateur?
According to the indictment, Butina has been quite active and successful in the U.S. She established connections with prominent politicians and tried to create a shadow channel of communication between the Kremlin and Donald Trump’s administration.
On the other hand, Butina made a number of mistakes that are unacceptable for a spy or even for an experienced agent of influence.
For example, according to the FBI, a note with instructions from the FSB was found in her apartment, and her e-mail contained contacts of several people who in the US were considered to be employees of this special service.
That’s why many American experts assumed that she was not a professional spy, but simply an agent recruited by Russian special services.
“Butina is not a professional intelligence officer but a source who develops access to people and provides targeting information and assessment to the professionals, so they know who is vulnerable and who to go after. She just tees up fools for Russia to compromise,” said former senior CIA officer John Sipher. In his commentary to the American media, Sipher calls Butina an “access agent,” whose job was to get many contacts, from which professional spies would then choose the right people for “a more-covert type of contact.”
Former KGB lieutenant colonel Akif Gasanov, who served approximately 15 years in Soviet intelligence, in an exclusive interview with the Kyiv Post, noted that, most likely, the word “agent” in the professional sense, or at least an intelligence agent, is not applicable to Butina. At the same time, he emphasized that his comments on the case of the arrested Russian woman are only a conjecture and only make sense if the FBI’s conclusion is confirmed and Butina’s guilt is proven.
“In general, today it’s possible to find any information on the internet, including the special literature used for training of operative workers as well as agents. So, it’s no secret that in Soviet times there was the notion of “confidential connection” with the foreigners and a “confidential person” among Soviet citizens. For example, when Soviet scientists traveled abroad, there weren’t that many agents among them, but the majority were from the category of “confidential persons,” said Gasanov.
How the agents are trained
The former Soviet intelligence officer explained that the difference between “confidential persons” and “agents” lies primarily in the selection and preparation process and also in the level of assignments that are given to them.
“The training of intelligence agents takes up to four years or more, and illegals – up to ten years. A year and a half are spent studying the person, and not only his public activity, but also personal life, habits and even behavior in everyday life, since often the external world of a person can be dramatically different from the internal one. The fact that Maria was an activist of the “Young Guard of United Russia” is still not enough for the special services to consider her a reliable person. What if she, for example, was a secret drug addict? To avoid this, an undercover agent is assigned to a person, testimony of 4-5 sources is taken into account, behavior at the place of residence is investigated, personal and moral qualities are checked. At the first stage, the potential agent doesn’t even know that he is being watched. After thorough investigation, a dossier is created and then the intelligence team contacts the candidates and gives them their first tasks, for example, to establish friendly relations with foreigners at some event in the host country. After that, recruitment actually takes place. If the person agrees, the real training of the agent begins,” Gasanov says.
According to the former intelligence officer, special attention in this training is paid to the channels of communication with the homeland.
“Back in our time, we used special equipment so a person at the right time “fired off” a radio signal with encrypted information to the satellite. Agents in a number of cases are given special equipment, which can enter the country through the embassy, and then embassy representatives leave it in special hidden places. Now, like in Soviet times, they use dead drops. And, of course, agents are trained not only to use the equipment, but also to recognize surveillance.”
Akif Gasanov shared another espionage trick: intelligence agents try to establish as many contacts as possible, most of which are of no interest to them, so they can hide really important contacts among them. However, he admitted that in the case when the agent establishes contacts with high-level politicians, presidential or congressional candidates, it becomes impossible to “hide” such contacts among ordinary neighbors or sales people.
Akif Gasanov himself served in many western countries during his time in the KGB.
“When you go to a meeting, you must check if you’re being followed along your route. At the same time, the embassy operatives monitor airwaves. They know which frequencies are being used for external surveillance by the local counterintelligence. Before the meeting, you usually drive around the city for about 2-3 hours on a pre-planned route, and the station at the embassy monitors the airwaves – to verify that you’re not being followed. After getting out of the car, you walk several kilometers on foot under the observation of a partner, and in case of danger, you leave the route, returning to the hotel. It usually took 3-6 hours to get to the venue,” Akif remembers.
As the former spy noted, establishing “cooperation” classically consists of four stages: locating the subject, his development, recruitment and collaboration with him. According to Gasanov, in the case under consideration, apparently, no special work was done to prepare the girl, and the plan was to use her to locate the target.
“It may well be that Butina started out as a confidential person, but achieved too much success, and her training didn’t match the level of relations with the operative. Most likely, this is the phenomenon of a “talented amateur”, in which the girl entered unexpectedly deep into the American circles, and her handlers themselves didn’t expect such success. She was able to build relationships with serious politicians, but she did not even know that some things cannot be mentioned in the correspondence. No one has taught her any forms of communication or ways of detecting surveillance. It is also possible that the operative with whom she maintained contact was not up to the level of the work that was carried out,” said Akif Gasanov.
In the opinion of the former intelligence officer, it was negligence in the transfer of the received information and the results of her work to Russia that became the main reason for the failure of the “foreign agent”.
“In any intelligence, there is a scheme: the collection of information, its storage and transmission of information to the government of their country. In the absence of one of these components, starting a criminal case is futile. No one is arrested for private lobbying in the United States. In the case of Butina, the FBI may have evidence that she not only praised Russia and lobbied for friendly relations, but conducted specific work, that is, she was collecting and transmitting information. Moreover, in her case, the weak link was the transfer procedure and contacts with the handlers,” the former operative explains.
The retired colonel of the KGB adds: for counterintelligence agents working inside their own country selection process is less rigorous. They do not undergo such a long and thorough vetting and operational training. Therefore, Akif Gasanov does not exclude the possibility that Butina was recruited by the FSB while she was still in Russia. This, by the way, fits with the investigation findings, which indicate that Butina’s contacts with American gun lobbyists began in Russia, where the Americans came to the conferences organized by Butina. This version of events is also supported by the fact that the girl maintained email contact with the FSB, and not with the SVR, which is responsible for foreign intelligence.
“It should be noted that sometimes counterintelligence agents, in order to” put the intelligence agencies in their place,” carry out activities that are part of the latter’s sphere of competence, and this, as a rule, leads to undesirable results. If Maria is connected to the security services, most likely the FSB sent not only her, but also other people like her to America, looking for “random luck”, not expecting that she would achieve such deep infiltration into the ranks of the “enemy.” If she was just one of many and was supposed to be used only to locate the target, it’s clear why she was only not well-trained, but also not given a really qualified handler,” argues Gasanov.
What did the Soviet spies hunt for?
At the same time, regardless of Maria Butina’s status in the intelligence ranks, the KGB veteran admits: the people with whom the Russian woman came in contact fit the profile of the former subjects of interest of Soviet intelligence.
“We had political, scientific and technical intelligence. The military was somewhere in the middle, encompassing the political, scientific and technical spheres. We were interested in everything: The White House, the Pentagon, Congress, think tanks and, of course, universities. Remember that the famous Cambridge Five were recruited from among promising students. We were interested in all those who could potentially have access to classified information. A similar situation exists with American professors, especially if we consider that today one can be a university professor and tomorrow a State Department employee, and vice versa,” admits the former spy.
Akif Gasanov says that in the 1980s the Soviet Union lagged so far behind the West in technology that the Soviet intelligence actively recruited students in relevant majors. Even while they were still studying they could inform their foreign curators about important developments, and then, when they started working, their help was invaluable.
“It was the beginning of the programming era, and sometimes we obtained information that the Soviet Union was unable to use – there was simply no technical capability for that. Nevertheless, intelligence was always a lucrative field, and they were capable of obtaining information that saved billions,” recalls the KGB veteran.
According to the former intelligence officer, by the end of the 1980s it was already very difficult to find ideological Communists in the West, and relations were mostly built on the material basis. Akif Gasanov acknowledges that the “ideologies for export” created by today’s Russia for different social groups in Western society are quite effective, but he remains convinced: high-level sources decide to cooperate with foreigners only for good rewards, and Moscow today, just as before, does not skimp on compensating its foreign agents for their labor.
One of the more common tropes in modern American politics is the claim that the Republican Party has a monopoly on patriotism.
A flag flying in front of a home or a “Support Our Troops” bumper sticker is often assumed to signify the right-wing political affiliation of its owner. However, it’s clear upon deeper reflection that this has been a troubling display of misappropriation, which has watered down patriotism to nothing more than idolatry and cultish allegiance to symbols and slogans, rather than the principles they embody. This is all the more troubling as the Republican Party has rapidly become the party of Trumpism. Read More
Democrat and Liberal Response to Republican Hijacking
For at least the last decade, patriotism has come to be nearly indistinguishable from xenophobic nationalism and hyperpatriotism; that is, patriotism has become synonymous with an excessive showing of blind allegiance to things instead of ideas and a refrain that any negative commentary on American attitudes, behaviors, or policies is somehow a departure from respect and love for one’s country. While this is entirely incorrect, it was so fully embraced by the flag-wavers across the country, that liberals felt joining the ranks of those expressing solidarity with the American flag or American symbols meant signing on to these horribly oversimplified and damaging conceptions of patriotism.
This departure from bipartisan shows of reverence for American symbols has allowed the Republican Party to run away with an image it has fostered and has created a narrative that portrays affection for one’s country as mutually exclusive to progressive or liberal ideals and anathema to the Democratic Party. It’s a false narrative, but one that has been so deeply drilled into the cultural psyche we’ve been nearly powerless to alter it. It’s well past time to correct for that and there’s no better moment than right now, as we see Republicans abandoning whatever vestiges of American ideals they still had.
Patriotism as Theatrics
We need look no further for evidence of this reality than the way in which most Republicans have clamored to support Donald Trump’s every whim. They’ve rallied behind him as he has worked to decimate the institutions that have held America together for more than two centuries. They’ve supported him as he has attacked America’s allies, particularly those who are most deeply committed to the democratic ideals that the United States was founded on. They’ve rushed to endorse his continued attacks on the press, a hallmark of freedom of speech. They’ve endorsed his calls to “lock up” his political opponents, a theme common in dictatorships and authoritarian regimes. They shout about the importance of standing for the national anthem and chant about American exceptionalism, which are extremely ironic gestures, given their clear interest in dismantling everything that has, in fact, made America exceptional. They’ve done all of this with glee and fervor, all the while enthusiastically waving our American flag.
The underlying truth here is that most Republicans, especially those who support Donald Trump, don’t actually value the profound principles, values, and philosophies that make America what it is and give us the foundation to push on towards what America can truly be. They’ve come to idolize the symbols, while completely dismissing the very things that the symbolism is supposed to represent. In quite the same way, they’ve flocked to Trump via cult-of-personality driven furor, hanging on his every word, no matter what it is. This is evident in their acceptance of every policy his administration has proposed, regardless of how contrary it is to long-standing Republican inclinations and regardless of how much it flies in the face of decency, normalcy, and propriety.
In doing this, they’ve reduced patriotism to empty slogans, vacuous imagery, and wholesale idolatry. They’ve produced a shadow of patriotism, which is no more than the fetishization of banners, reminiscent of fascistic nations, where people have been duped into rallying behind figureheads and signs in place of institutional norms and unwavering values.
This isn’t patriotism and it cannot be allowed to stand as the Golden Calf that Republicans have made of it.
The Democratic Party has become the U.S. political movement that more truly embodies American principles and we shouldn’t shy away from donning the symbols or waving the flag that can serve to display our commitment to those principles. Political rallies for equality, regardless of one’s sex, gender identity, race, religion, or country of origin, should be awash with stars and stripes, making it clear to all onlookers and participants that the flag is not a Republican prop to feign patriotism, but an enduring sign that America is a place where diversity is valued and equality is recognized as inherent to our success and a bedrock of our very being. This should be our modus operandi at every rally for social justice or economic inequality. We should make sure these displays are present and unmissable at every march against gun violence or interference in our democracy.
Revoking the Trumpian Republican claim to these symbols also acts to diminish their ability to market themselves as patriots and to continue hijacking the image of our country and its symbols, which is ultimately a battle over how American identity is projected around the world. No longer can we allow the worst among us to define us, to define our country, and to define the symbols that relay to everyone who sees them what kind of people we are and what kind of values we care deeply about.
not American: not characteristic of or consistent with American customs, principles, or traditions
That’s the old definition. The modern GOP has worked to convincingly redefine the term:
Abuse of power. Insurgent & overt white supremacy. Conspiracy with a foreign adversary to sabotage our democratic process. Rampant pay-to-play profiteering off of government service. Lavish vacations on the taxpayer’s dime. Demeaning and undermining the free press. Gaslighting and spreading disinformation. Voter suppression. Trampling foreign alliances while courting the favor of autocrats and dictators. Purposeful redistribution of wealth to the most powerful, at the expense of the least. Craven attacks on the credibility of Federal law enforcement.
And yet, Republicans regularly lay claim to “Americanism” while actively seeking to cast the opposition as “un-American”. They drape themselves in the flag and proclaim themselves the only true patriots. For the good of the nation and the world, this cannot stand.
Those in the current GOP Congress who aren’t attacking America outright are turning a blind eye, which is equally irresponsible. They have lost their privilege to give input on what defines Americanism. They have forfeited their right to carry the mantle of “patriot”. You lose that right when you wave an American flag in one hand while discreetly cradling the Confederate and Russian flags in the other. Republicans can no longer lay claim to Old Glory.
Not any more. For too long, the left has allowed the right to “own” our patriotic symbols. The flag. The eagle. Uncle Sam. The time has come to take them back. We are the ones who want a fairer America. We are the ones fighting for the American principles of truth, justice and equality. We are the ones celebrating the diversity of a nation of immigrants. We are the ones standing behind rule of law. We are the patriots.
Symbols matter. It’s time for the left (and all those who disdain Trump’s desecration of America) to don the Stars and Stripes; to unfurl Old Glory, display her on our homes and to carry her in our peaceful protests; to wear that flag pin, and wear it proudly.
The left has understandable squeamishness here: from Vietnam to Iraq, our flag has flown over a number of unjust and ill-conceived military campaigns. For people of color, the flag has represented an oppressive and institutionally racist state since the country’s founding. Many are rightfully wary of jingoism; and let’s face it – if we walk down the street and see a couple with American flag shirts and eagle hats, we think, “Trumpers”. The idea of donning the stars and stripes seems unthinkable to some, if for no other reason than “guilt by association”.
Time to get over that. Because it precisely illustrates the problem.
We need to reorient – away from the idea that our shared symbols represent America’s fraught history or its current government – and toward the more hopeful notion that the “America” they represent is an ever-unrealized but fervently pursued idea: a set of noble principles that drive us collectively toward a more perfect union.
America is Susan B. Anthony, Martin Luther King, Jr. and Harvey Milk. America is Franklin Roosevelt, Abraham Lincoln and the ACLU. America is the free press, a cast ballot, and the freedom to protest our government. These people, institutions & rights exemplify the best of America because they clearly represent the values that serve as our North Star: Equality. Truth. Justice. Democracy. Many of us have a visceral feeling of contempt for Trump and his party precisely because they so clearly diverge from – and even carry disdain for – these principles that are truly the core of America.
Those of us who see the danger in the permanent hijacking of Americanism by the modern GOP have to step forward and fight for it. This battle is definitional. The resulting victory (or defeat) will have an enduring impact on the course and the viability of liberal democracy worldwide.
It is critical for history to show that, with constitutional values as the guide and our institutions as the foundation, Americans fought off an authoritarian power grab and emerged stronger and more resolute than ever before in our embrace of democracy. We must etch upon the pages of history that America – and its symbols – stand for something good.
So we are taking our symbols back, in honor of the best of America, and in defiance of the worst. America needs us right now. Not in the shadows, but out in the open.
Reclaim the American flag from the false patriotism of Trumpism. Our flag stands for Equality, Truth, Justice, Diversity and the Rule of Law. So, wear it. Display it prominently in your social media profiles. Buy a flag pin. Carry Old Glory to peaceful protests. Fly it at your home.
It’s time to be proud of the position we’re taking in the fight for our democracy.
We are the Patriots.
Nick Knudsen is a writer and activist based in Portland, Oregon. Find him on Twitter @DemWrite.
Call your Senatorsand urge them pass the Menendez/Graham Russia sanctions bill. (S.3336) Read More
All of Trump’s senior national security officials, in a joint press conference last week, warned that Russia has undertaken “pervasive” efforts to interfere in the 2018 midterms, with both targeted propaganda and attempted hacking of campaign emails.
Trump, however, continues to frequently contradict his senior officials, refuses to consistently acknowledge that the Russians even interfered in the 2016 election and has done nothing to deter their interference in the 2018 midterms. He has also denigrated NATO and shamelessly pandered to Putin.
While the DETER Act has been introduced to put automatic sanctions on Russia for any interference, it now seems too little too late as the Russians are already interfering and the key Republican sponsor, Senator Marco Rubio (R-FL), has stated he’s open to amending the bill so that the imposition of sanctions would be in Trump’s control.
Strong new sanctions legislation has been proposed by a bipartisan group of Senators. The legislation would immediately impose crippling sanctions on key Russian industries and individuals, including Putin’s family members, prevent Trump from leaving the NATO alliance without the support of 2/3 of the Senate, and put measures in place to ensure a robust defense against Russian interference.
We cannot tolerate nor afford Russian interference in our democracy. The Senate must pass these strong measures with the overwhelming numbers needed to overcome a presidential veto, and it needs to be done now.
This is [NAME] and I’m a constituent in [ZIP].
Russia is already interfering in our mid-terms with a propaganda blitz and email hacking. The president has shown no interest in protecting the election from the Russia. A strong message needs to be sent that America will not tolerate Russian interference in our democracy.
I urge [Sen. ____] to support the Menedez Graham Russia sanctions bill (S.3336).
Call your 3 members of Congressand tell them to protect the Mueller investigation and the rule of law by passing the Special Counsel Independence and Integrity Act (S. 2644) (H.R. 5505). Read More
Trump tweeted today that AG Jeff Sessions should end the Mueller investigation “right now.” The escalation of his attack on the Mueller investigation comes amid new revelations about his approval of the Trump Tower meeting and the start of trial of his former campaign head, Paul Manafort.
Legislation was introduced in April in the Senate and the House to protect Mueller and his investigation, but Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) has refused to allow it to proceed.
It seems inevitable that Trump will move against Mueller and his investigation. Congress needs to act on legislation that will protect Mueller, the Russia investigation and the rule of law.
This is [NAME] and I’m a constituent in [ZIP].
Given Trump’s escalating attacks and his tweet that Sessions should fire Special Counsel Mueller “right now,” I believe it is inevitable he will try to fire Mueller, creating a constitutional crisis.
I urge [Sen/Rep ____] to support the Special Counsel Independence and Integrity Act (S. 2644/H.R. 5505) to protect Mueller and the Russia investigation and maintain the rule of law.
Call your 3 members of Congress (833-293-9454) and tell them to protect the Mueller investigation and the rule of law by passing the Special Counsel Independence and Integrity Act (S. 2644) (H.R. 5505). Read More
Trump’s plot to smear the DOJ, the FBI and Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation is in full swing.
House Republicans have relentlessly attacked the investigation, even threatening to impeach or hold Mueller’s boss, Deputy AG Rod Rosenstein, in contempt for failure to hand over highly sensitive documents in the on-going investigation.
Legislation was introduced in April in the Senate and the House to protect Mueller and his investigation, but Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) has refused to allow it to proceed.
It seems inevitable that Trump will move against Mueller and his investigation. Congress needs to act on legislation that will protect Mueller, the Russia investigation and the rule of law.
This is [NAME] and I’m a constituent in [ZIP].
Given Trump’s tweets slamming Special Counsel Mueller and his investigation, I believe it is inevitable he will try to fire him, creating a constitutional crisis.
I urge [Sen/Rep ____] to support the Special Counsel Independence and Integrity Act (S. 2644/H.R. 5505) to protect Mueller and the Russia investigation and maintain the rule of law.
Call your senators at (202) 224-3121 and urge them to pass the DETER Act (S.2313) and demand it include even stronger sanctions against Russia. Read More
The Senate is expected to begin debate on the DETER Act (S.2313) as early as this week. The DETER Act is bipartisan legislation introduced by Senators Chris Van Hollen (D-MD) and Marco Rubio (R-FL) which would impose automatic sanctions on Russia (without any need for Trump to act) if the Director of National Intelligence determines that Russia interferes in our election by hacking state election infrastructure, candidates or campaigns or conducts social media propaganda to interfere in our election.
The legislation imposes the automatic sanctions on key Russian industries. Given the risks posed, the sanctions should be made even stronger and Democrats are expected to introduce amendments to further strengthen the sanctions.
The DETER Act has a bi-partisan companion bill in the House (H.R.4884), but the House is unlikely to take it up unless the Senate passes the legislation.
The DETER Act has been stalled for months, but Trump’s disgraceful and treasonous performance in Helsinki has given it renewed traction, with key Republicans including Senators Lindsey Graham (R-SC) Ben Sasse (R-NE), Cory Gardner (R-CO), Susan Collins (R-ME) and Chuck Grassley (R-IA) signing on as co-sponsors, along with Senators Mark Warner (D-VA), Tammy Baldwin (D-WI), Richard Blumenthal (D-CT) and Maria Cantwell (D-WA).
The DETER Act is the only remaining Congressional bill which would impact the 2018 election (the P.A.V.E. Act which requires paper ballots and post-election audits would not take effect until the 2020 election).
Red lights are flashing that Russia intends to interfere in our mid-term elections. Strong legislation is needed now to stop them.
This is [NAME] and I’m a constituent in [ZIP].
I urge Senator [____] to pass the DETER Act and demand it include even stronger sanctions against Russia.
Russia is already interfering in our election and must be deterred from further aggression.
The president shows no interest in stopping Russia’s interference. We must have strong automatic sanctions, bypassing the president, to ensure our 2018 election is not hijacked.
The ability to have faith in our elections is the cornerstone of our democracy. We must protect the midterms.
The meeting between Donald Trump and Vladimir Putin in Helsinki, as well as previous events, once again led to the media questioning the nature of the relationship between the two leaders. It should be noted that the actions of Trump himself, as well as of the Russian side, provided additional grounds for discussion of this topic. Read More
So, after his provocative behavior at the NATO summit, where Trump demanded from the allies that they spend more on their defense than the agreed to 2% of their GDP, the American president in an interview called the European Union“America’s main foe.” So, in response to the CBS Evening News journalist’s request to name the “biggest foe globally right now“, Donald Trump named the European Union first – as he claimed, for “what they do to us in trade.” The list of enemies of the American president was not limited to this, and on Sunday, on the eve of the summit with Putin,he reiterated that “much of the media is the enemy of the people,” thereby continuing his fight against the key allies of the United States and the main institutions of American democracy, for which he has more than once received praise from analysts close to the Kremlin.
Meanwhile, during the preparation for the presidential summit, the Russian media did not hide the fact that it was Russia that was leading the way in future negotiations. On July 13, a researcher of Russian propaganda, Olga Lautman, drew attention to the fact that the Russian news agency TASS had already laid out the schedule of the forthcoming meeting, earlier than the American media had learned about it. Another American information analyst, Paula Chertok,noted the statement made by Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov that the summit was held at the request of the United States, while noting the Russian side’s caustic hint about “polite people” – an expression that became a symbol of Russian aggression in Ukraine.
On a wave of all these events, the leader of the Democratic minority in the US House of Representatives, Nancy Pelosi, said on July 12 that she wanted to know exactly which levers of influence Moscow has on Trump.
“What do the Russians have on Donald Trump, politically, financially and personally?” The Democratic leader asked.
Earlier suspicions that the American president is afraid of Vladimir Putin because of the compromising information that Moscow has on him were expressedby the former CIA director John Brennan. This statement was made after Trump, contrary to the recommendations of his closest associates, congratulated Vladimir Putin on taking office. Assumptions about the nature of possible compromising material were also voiced in the American press a few years earlier. In the famous report of the former British intelligence agent Christopher Steel, for example, it is noted that the hidden FSB cameras recorded the exact nature of the fun that Trump was having with the prostitutes in the presidential room of the Moscow hotel Ritz-Carlton in 2013.
The Russian opposition politician Vladimir Milov believes that the compromising evidence on Donald Trump was being accumulated by the Soviet KGB at least since 1987. He expressed this opinion in an interview I conducted with him for the report “Strength and weakness of Russian special services” in January 2017, shortly after an archival article from 1988 about the visit of Donald Trump to the Soviet Union in 1987 appeared in the American media.
“It turns out that ‘our comrades’ have been closely ‘following’ Trump for over 30 years and the dossier they have on him certainly comprises many-many volumes. In addition, at that time, Trump was married to a Czechoslovak woman who spoke Russian, which also offers good conditions for recruitment,” Milov suggested in his commentary. Indeed, according to the materials of the article, this visit was personally organized by the USSR ambassador to the United States Yuri Dubinin and VAO Intourist, and during the trip Trump met with high-ranking members of the Politburo. Of course, in the Soviet Union, no meeting at such a high level could take place without the KGB approval.
American journalist Jonathan Chait went even further and suggested that Trump was recruited by Russian special services, and Vladimir Putin is not so much his colleague but a handler. Tom Nichols inhis article in Politico magazine softened the wording somewhat and noted that it would be more correct to think of Trump not as an enlisted agent, but as an investment by the Russian authorities. At the same time, he spoke highly of Chait’s article in the part where it describes the specific connections between Trump and his entourage with Moscow. In addition, Trump’s long-standing connections not only with Russian officials and businessmen, but with the leaders of the Solntsevo OPG,were described in detail in the investigation by the French journalist Anastasiya Kirilenko in April this year.
Be that as it may, one fact remains indisputable: the Russian special services really do organize observation of every foreigner of interest to them, and this practice was equally common both in the Soviet era and today. At the same time, compromising evidence is one of the favorite methods of recruiting by the KGB/FSB. Let us recall the numerous “Anatomies of protest” and other products of Russian propaganda, whose consistent attributes arerecordings by a hidden camera planted in a cafe or in a hotel room, audio recordings of phone conversations, financial reports and other “evidence”collected through total surveillance of both foreign guests and their Russian contacts.
In January 2017, The Insider published an investigation into the methods by which special services film compromising video in hotels. The journalists managed to interview one of the curators of a major Moscow hotel where foreigners often stay, and he explained in detail how hotel employees are recruited, how the maids are instructed to seduce customers, where camcorders are installed, and which units are responsible for “directing” the footage. Of course, such a curator exists in the hotel Ritz-Carlton. In the article, The Insider also talks about how the FSB and GRU officers own whole brothels and use prostitutes to work in salons and saunas.
We managed to find an exclusive source, who personally participated in the search for girls used in the preparation of compromising material. We are talking about the already mentioned in previous articles Felix Kubin – a refugee from Russia, now living in California. During his time in Moscow, Kubin carried out separate assignments for Bashir Kushtov, who is described as a high-ranking enforcer working for the Russian Interior Minister Rashid Nurgaliev, but who also had connections with the counterintelligence service of the FSB. Then, Kubin exposed some of the provocations organized by Kushtov in an interview with the Russian opposition journalist Alexander Sotnik, after which he requested political asylum in the United States.
Earlier, Felix Kubintold me in an interview how Kushtov asked his acquaintances to make a deadly poison that could instantly kill a person even with the slightest touch or with no contact at all, as well as solvents capable of carrying poison under the victim’s skin. However, this was not the only instruction given by the enforcer to his civilian assistants. In an exclusive interview with our site, Kubin described how the special services selected girls to seduce the necessary “targets.”
“My friend personally participated in the selection of prostitutes – as far as I know, to rope in some governors who were visiting Moscow. I know for sure that the girls were selected to seduce high-level officials and Russian politicians, but, perhaps, to work with foreigners too – I just have not been told about it. The level of girls and the amount of payment depended on the level of the “object”. For Russian targets, the search for girls was conducted on dating sites, on Rambler and other Internet servers. Often, models were recruited. I knew one guy who specialized in models and had a list of suitable candidates. I do not remember his last name, but I know that he participated in shooting porn films “Provincial Stallion” and “Victim of the Hitchhiking”. I remember that different suppliers poached each other’s models, and there was a case where one such “specialist” was almost murdered by his “competitor”, Kubin recalls.
According to him, for lower-level “targets”, girls were recruited from provinces or, in worst-case scenario, from St. Petersburg, so that after completing the “task” a member of the world’s oldest profession would immediately return home. At the same time, for “targets” of the highest level, provincial beauties were not good enough. According to Kubin, elite Moscow prostitutes were involved in such cases, and special services did not skimp on payments.
“The selection of the girls was very thorough. They needed first class, and it could only be provided by women who were paid thousands of euros for sex. We didn’t need empty-headed bimbos, but high-class, intelligent women who could provide such services knew their worth. These women often refused, saying that they were already earning enough. Most likely, they were afraid that they would be killed after completing the assignment, as unnecessary witnesses. Then the FSB tried to raise the price, and the offers reached ten thousand dollars for one time – of course, if the girl was really worth that much. Sometimes girls were told that as a result of their efforts, a person would sign the necessary contract, and then they would regularly receive royalties from this contract. However, many were still afraid, and it was very difficult to find someone, as I remember. My friend boasted that the FSB had allocated him a separate budget for networking with the prostitutes so that he could attempt to persuade them. In especially important cases, it was the price that made the difference” Kubin said.
According to the immigrant, the special services acted not only in those hotels that were under their constant supervision, but they also selected others, especially in cases where an enlisted prostitute had the opportunity to lure the next “provincial stallion” to the right hotel.
“The FSB did not use its corporate apartments for such purposes. Most often they found hotels that were popular with lovers, and in most cases did not even notify the hotel management. Their main problem was installing the cameras, so their batteries wouldn’t go dead. This is exactly what my friend was doing: he would find a power source, or he would secretly connect the camera to a power outlet, he handled the technical part,” Kubin confessed.
In short, knowing the specifics of the tactics of the Russian special services and, to put it mildly, Donald Trump’s propensity for lecherous behavior, it is not difficult to believe that the facts set forth in the Christopher Steel dossier correspond to reality. If we add to this the fact that the Soviet KGB would never organize the visit of an American businessman at the highest level if it wasn’t interested in him, one can agree with Tom Nichols that the KGB, the FSB, and subsequently the Kremlin initially viewed Trump as a promising investment, which, as further events showed, paid off in full.
Members of Congress Joined the Public to ‘Confront Corruption & Demand Democracy’ at Nearly 200 Candlelight Vigils Nationwide
D.C. Event Among Nearly 200 Nationwide in the Wake of Trump’s Meeting with Putin, 12 New Indictments in Mueller’s Russia Probe
Hundreds of activists joined members of Congress to hold a vigil outside the White House Wednesday evening to confront the open corruption of the Trump administration and demand immediate solutions to fix our democracy. The D.C. activists’ vigil was amplified by nearly 200 similar events in 39 states and Puerto Rico attended by thousands of Americans nationwide. The Loyal Opposition helped organize & participated in the vigil.
Through songs, speeches and a moment of silence to recognize the human cost of corruption on people’s lives, hundreds of attendees recommitted to protecting Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation into ties between the Trump campaign and Russia and to promoting reforms to strengthen democracy.
President Donald Trump’s public attacks on American intelligence agencies in Helsinki on Monday, which followed the indictments of Russian agents in the Mueller probe, have sparked a new level of outrage among Americans. The never-ending stream of ethics violations by Trump and many of his appointees, allies and family members has generated a regular cry of condemnation by good government groups.
Activists demanded real, significant fixes to get money out of politics, tear down barriers to voting, promote a U.S. Supreme Court that defends the rule of law and fix our ethics laws.
Additional groups that participated in the vigil included: act.tv, Alliance for Democracy, American Constitution Society, American Family Voices, Blue Future + the Youth Progressive Action Catalyst, Center for American Progress Action Fund, Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington, Common Cause, CREDO Action, Daily Kos, Defending Democracy, Democracy 21, Democracy for America, Democracy Spring, End Citizens United, Every Voice, Franciscan Action Network, Greenpeace, Herd on the Hill, Hip Hop Caucus, Lawyers for Good Government, March For Truth, MAYDAY America, MoveOn, National Center for Lesbian Rights, National LGBTQ Task Force, Need to Impeach, Pantsuit Nation, People Demanding Action, People For the American Way, People’s Action, Protect Democracy, Public Citizen, Represent.Us, Revolving Door Project, Stand Up America, The Leadership Conference for Civil and Human Rights, Tikkun & the Network of Spiritual Progressives, Unitarian Universalist Association, United To Amend, Wolf-PAC.
Call your senators and House representative at (202) 224-3121 and demand they publicly condemn Trump’s treason. Read More
At his Helsinki press conference today, Trump sided with Putin against the US intelligence community, the FBI, and the findings of two Congressional committees. He ranted about insane conspiracy theories while standing on stage with a murderous dictator who continues to attack America.
Sen/Rep [____] must publicly condemn Trump’s treasonous statements in Helsinki.
Trump eliminated any doubt that he is compromised in siding with a murderous autocrat over his intelligence heads, U.S. law enforcement and the conclusions of the House and Senate Intelligence Committees.
Call your senators and House representative at (202) 224-3121 and urge them to pass the P.A.V.E. Act to require states to use paper ballots and conduct mandatory audits. Read More
In 2016, Russia conducted cyberattacks on state and county election infrastructure, breaching at least 39 state systems. Mueller’s most recent indictment highlights the depths of the vulnerabilities of state election infrastructure and revealed the theft of voters’ personal data by Russia in 2016. Despite efforts to upgrade cybersecurity, many states still fall short with some wasting funds to buy new equipment that can still be hacked.
The only reliable solution is to require paper ballots (which may be machine counted) and to conduct appropriate post-election audits to ensure the integrity of the vote. Democrats have introduced legislation, the Protecting American Votes and Elections Act (“P.A.V.E. Act”), which would require states to use paper ballots and conduct mandatory post-election audits.
It is fundamental to our democracy that we can have confidence in the integrity of our election results. Congress must pass the P.A.V.E. Act (S. 3049/H.R. 6093).
This is [NAME] and I’m a constituent in [ZIP].
I urge Sen/Rep [____] to push for the quick passage of [S.3049/H.R. 6093], the PAVE Act.
I am extremely concerned that state election systems remain vulnerable to cyberattacks by Russians and others.
We need to require paper ballots and mandatory audits to ensure confidence in our election results. It is crucial to American democracy that we have elections in which we can have confidence.
While analyzing all that is happening today in the United States, I’ve often noticed the striking similarity between the behavior and propaganda of Trump with his entourage and Putin’s Russia. The similarities are so obvious that sometimes it seems that Trump and his team’s methodologies were written in Moscow.
Renown Russian opposition politician and former world chess champion Garry Kasparov recently described the typical game plan that an autocratic leader follows when he gets caught “red-handed.” This is what it looks like:
Deny, lie, slander.
Claim that it was a misunderstanding.
Boast and jeer: “And what are you going to do about it?”
Now I will try to illustrate the similarity in the propaganda strategies of “Putinism” and “Trumpism” using specific examples. Read More
1.1. Denials and lies
This is the first reaction of any criminal caught at the crime scene. It should be noted that both Trump and Putin are constantly trying to hide their actions, and conducts their affairs with mafia-like secrecy – be it the deployment of “little green men” in unmarked uniforms to Crimea, or secret meetings with Russian Ambassador Kislyak, getting paid by “Russia Today,” or conspiring to obtain compromising information about political opponents (most likely not a selfless plot as it became evident later). In all these cases, when the truth came out, the responses of Putin and Trump (as well as their propagandists) typically came down to this painfully familiar phrase: “That’s not what happened.”
In all these cases, when the truth came out, the responses of Putin and Trump (as well as their propagandists) came down to this painfully familiar phrase: “That’s not what happened.”
Remember how the members of the Trump team one by one denied their meetings with the Russian Ambassador Kislyak, only to have no choice but to admit them later? In a similar manner, they denied other contacts between members of his campaign and the Russians, the very fact that these talks happened, attempts to influence the investigation, the transfer of secret information to “Russian partners,” etc. The latest example is the information about the second, secret meeting between Putin and Trump during the G20 summit in Hamburg, where Trump’s first impulse was to vehemently deny it, again calling the media that published these facts “fake news.”
A little later, the White House was forced to admit that this meeting really did happen; however, now the Trump administration tried to minimize it as “only a short conversation at the end of the official dinner.” In this regard, let us recall Putin’s fiery assurances that the Russian military was not in the occupied Crimea, before being replaced by statements that “they are merely there to ensure an orderly referendum.” The apogee of this story was the film “Crimea. The way home,” directly demonstrating the entire process of the annexation of the peninsula. And these are just some of the many examples of falsehoods coming from the administrations of Trump and Putin.
Again, this behavior is most prevalent in the criminal world, where the best defense is the offense. This tactic is one of the most dangerous and malicious, extremely degrading to the moral state of our society, and therefore worth discussing in more detail. Both Putin’s and Trump’s propagandists use the following kinds of slander:
The simplest and most primitive way is to discredit the reputation of an individualby a blunt lie. Not long ago, I mentioned one example – how immediately after the Senate hearings, local Trump fans started spreading unsubstantiated anonymous slander about “the Comey brothers working for the Clinton Foundation.” They didn’t even stop to consider that the former director of the FBI, James Comey – by the way, a staunch Republican – enjoys great respect among people of all different political views. The statements of the FBI veterans, both in the media and on social networks, make it clear that this man has an impeccable reputation as one of the most honest and professional leaders of this organization. And the Comey case is just a partial example of how the Republican media and pro-Trump trolls on social networks sling mud at everyone who dares to speak out against their “leader.”
Needless to say, this method is regularly used in Russia. Numerous “investigative” NTV films, propaganda on social networks, sexually incriminating materials, harassment on federal channels – all of this is aimed at thoroughly discrediting in the eyes of the population the opposition leaders or people who have undeniable moral authority, but who oppose the regime’s crimes, like for example the Nobel Prize winner Svetlana Aleksievich.
Conspiracy theories. This point is derived straight from the following. The best way to discredit someone is to weave him into a conspiracy theory linking him to an entity that has long been a subject of irrational hatred. In the Russian tradition, this entity has been the CIA, the West, and the United States. Among conservative Americans, this role is played by the thoroughly demonized images of Obama, Clinton, and the Democratic Party as a whole, and, of late, the mysterious “Deep State.” Both here and there, there are accusations of being paid off: in the Russian case – by the CIA, and in the American – allegedly by George Soros (sometimes – personally Hillary Clinton). Thus, having no real arguments on the substance of the issues under consideration, the Putinists as well as the Trumpists resort to the simplest and only means available to them: vilifying their opponent as much as possible.
One of the latest, most odious conspiracy stories is the one recently promoted on Fox News that claims that the Democratic Party hired Russian lawyer Natalia Veselnitskaya to offer Donald Trump Jr. compromising material on herself! How can we not be reminded of Putin’s famous statements about “ritual sacrifices,” oppositionists who kill themselves, and Ukrainians who bomb their own cities?
Labeling opponents. Unlike the previous methods, this one doesn’t involve personal attacks. Nevertheless, this type of slander is especially dangerous since it takes hold insidiously and ends up completely distorting reality. For example, at the very beginning of Trump’s election campaign, his agitators tried to bet on patriotism, emphasizing that they were “true American patriots,” whereas the Trump opponents were, in Soviet terms, “rootless cosmopolitans” who secretly hate their country and periodically burn the American flag.
Notably, the Kremlin mass media operating in Russia has been particularly successful in this type of propaganda. Over many years, they have succeeded in convincing the population that “by definition a liberal cannot be a patriot.” At the same time, such clichés have become so ingrained in society that they have been implicitly accepted even by the Russian opposition, who obediently call Putin’s supporters “patriots,” and thus play into the hands of the Kremlin.
American society should be commended for not falling into this trap, and for not repeating the mistakes of the Russian opposition by ceding the concept of patriotism to the pro-Trump propagandists. On the contrary, people of different views opposing Trump (and this, we recall, is the majority of American society) emphasize that their motivation is based on patriotic motives, above all, the untenability of the situation in which the president of their country acts in the interests of a hostile state.
However, Trump supporters have succeeded in spreading other clichés, in particular attributing certain political views to all his opponents. The ultra-partisan Republican media makes it clear how they view their opponents. Thus, in the article justifying the attempt at collusion between Donald Trump Jr. and Veselnitskaya, anyone opposing it is stigmatized in the very first paragraph as the “left” and “Democrats.”
In fact, there are at least three false statements in this paragraph. First, the Democratic Party is a broad coalition of people of quite different views, and its far-left wing is not very large. Moreover, people of radical leftist views don’t join any party more often than not and distrusted the state even under the presidency of Barack Obama.
Second, it is absolutely wrong to reduce anti-Trump mindsets strictly to partisan differences. The behavior of the incumbent US president is perceived as unacceptable (and especially unacceptable for America) by people of different views, primarily by national security specialists and special services officers, who, due to their work, have no political affiliations. Moreover, a significant portion of the Republican Party (especially if we are not talking about their top politicians but about rank-and-file members, party intellectuals, and even ideologists) categorically rejected Trump.
It is for this very reason that some of the formerly loyal Republicans broke away from the party and created an alternative conservative movement, acting exclusively from patriotic impulses. Evan McMullin, a former CIA officer, became the leader of this “Stand Up Republic” movement. It is important to note that in America, where the bipartisan system has dominated for centuries, the opportunities for any “third choice” to break into the political Olympus have in fact been reduced to zero, even though the third party is badly needed right now. Thus, McMullin’s position clearly does not bring him any political dividends and is dictated only by his principles.
The third lie is an attempt to present Trump as the embodiment of capitalism, although many analysts have repeatedly noted that his ideology most closely resembles the coming to power of the Bolsheviks in Russia, and has nothing to do with classical capitalism. At the same time, it is amusing that accusations of “socialism” come primarily from beneficiaries of social programs. Trump’s main constituency is retirees who receive their pensions courtesy of the taxpayers, and use medical insurance imposed by the Obama administration. In addition, most of them are residents of poor states that depend on subsidies from the federal budget at the expense of Western states known for their highest GDP in the US and advanced technology (Silicon Valley).
An old KGB tactic known as whataboutism. This is an attack on an opponent with questions in the style: “But what about…?.” It’s designed to prove that the enemy did exactly the same and even worse things in the past. This tactic employs misrepresentation of historical facts, demagoguery and distortion of the issue at hand. Today, it’s one of the most popular methods used by Russian trolls. When faced with the evidence of, say, Russia’s aggression against Ukraine, they start recalling wars in which the US participated (most often Yugoslavia, Iraq, and Libya).
This tactic is no less popular among the defenders of Trump. While the United States is discussing Donald Trump Jr.’s willingness to use compromising material on his rivals provided by the Kremlin, pro-Trump propagandists are trying to prove that “the Democrats have sought Russia’s help on several occasions.” By the way, it’s not going well for them. Barack Obama‘s attempts to establish relations with Russia involved neither the use of the compromising materials obtained in violation of the law in exchange for political concessions nor slandering opponents with the information collected and often rigged by foreign special services.
Second, these attempts were made even before the annexation of the Crimea and the war in the Donbas, at a time when Russia had not yet openly called the US its main enemy and had not taken such obvious steps to damage American security. Thus, such comparisons, manipulations and attempts to justify current crimes with “historical analogies” are no more justified than a comparison of international efforts to resolve the Kosovo problem with the Russian armed occupation of independent states.
Another example of “whataboutism” is the exploitation of the myths of the Second World War. In fact, the entire Russian propaganda campaign against Ukraine was built on it. Trumpists are also not averse to using this technique. Instead of recognizing the real problems that are caused by their hero’s recent actions, they spread the myths about how “George Soros cooperated with the Nazis” that were originally created by the Russian propagandists working with the special services, and only in the last year translated into English.
2. Admitting that the act took place
The second stage is the admission that the act took place, but presenting it as a minor misunderstanding or rationalizing it, simply put, normalizing the abnormal. Thus, the Russian leadership no longer denies the presence of the Russian military not only in the Crimea, but also in the Donbas, but still invents some excuses for their presence there. With the same tenacity, the new administration of the White House finds excuses for all the negotiations between Trump and his team with the Russian leadership, meetings with Russian ambassadors, secret meetings, etc that keep coming to light. A vivid recent example of such tactics are the abovementioned statements from the White House about, as it turns out, “a short conversation at the end of the official lunch” that after all did take place.
3. Presenting a fait accompli as a virtue
The third stage is the presentation of a fait accompli as a virtue, something that is worthy of praise, and a cynical admonition to the opponent that revealing the truth is still useless because it won’t change anything. This bravado, with the invariable addition of the phrase borrowed from the criminal underworld, “Prove it!,” unfortunately, at the moment describes the environment in both Russia and America. Even in the United States, where a free press and independent courts really do exist, new revelations that seemingly come to light every day have not led to any legal consequences.
However, an important difference between the United States and Russia, in addition to a mature civil society and democratic institutions, is the healthier state of society as a whole. Thus, according to the latest survey data, Trump is supported by about 36% of the population, and not 86%, as in Russia. The use of threats, hatred, and slander only leads to the marginalization of their bearers, but, fortunately, at the present, they haven’t been embraced by a wider section of the society than those who were already on Trump’s side during the election. On the contrary, the polls show that Trump’s popular support is slowly eroding and, as before, the vast majority of Americans do not approve of his policy.
One positive phenomenon that came out of the resistance to Trump’s presidency is the consolidation of society on the basis of patriotism and the formation of a broad coalition ready to defend American principles and democracy. This can be seen in the comments of ordinary Americans under the Independence Day greeting published on the official FBI Twitter account. People, while expressing gratitude to the FBI agents for their work, were asking them to complete the investigation of the ties between Putin and Trump, and even to arrest the latter. Such solidarity between ordinary people and law enforcement agencies in the fight against possible crimes “at the top” is also inconceivable in Russia.
Unfortunately, this national mood is not truly reflected in American politics. The disconnect between the American political parties’ agenda and the needs of the society is a worrying sign, and it was responsible for the victory of a Kremlin-supported Trump populism.
However, despite certain positive trends, it is important to note that the spread of propaganda, lies, hatred and persistent denial of reality has already infected American society with its own virus of moral degradation. The “Trump minority,” which was living in the illusory reality of conspiracy theories and non-existent threats from its fellow citizens even before Trump, has already developed immunity to any facts and is in the habit of obscuring, justifying and supporting absolutely unacceptable things. And, as we can see from the Russian example, it is almost impossible to reverse the moral degradation once it has taken hold. In addition, the Republican Party is currently in power, and many American commentators point out that it has turned into a “Putin party” over the past few years, which cannot but cause concern.
It is also important to note that Trump gets away with actions that are much more dangerous than Putin back in 2000, when he first came to power. Even in Russia in 2000, it was impossible to imagine that the president of the country and his closest circle would openly brand the press as “enemies of the people” and his opponents as “not even people.” Early Putin did not advocate violence against the media, did not declare war on the judges, did not appoint his children and in-laws as advisors, did not insult public figures, did not brazenly lie to his people, did not launch a propaganda machine at the level of the modern Kiselev and did not promote the interests of a hostile foreign state.
The establishment of dictatorship in Russia took several decades, while Trump tried to turn America into today’s Russia in literally just a few weeks. The only force that prevented him from doing this were American institutions: both governmental and civil. It is these institutions that the Republican propagandists are attacking today in America. At the same time, as we have already discussed above, this struggle is conducted in full accordance with Kremlin propaganda methodologies and, not coincidentally, with the full support from Moscow.
Call your senators at (202) 224-3121 and ask them to vote ‘NO’ on the nomination of Brian Benczkowski (Bench-Cow-Ski) to head the Department of Justice’s Criminal Division. Read More
Brian Benczkowski is the most dangerous Trump nomination you’ve never heard of. The Senate is expected to vote next week on his nomination to head the Criminal Division of the DOJ. The Criminal Division is involved with Robert Mueller’s TrumpRussia investigation and oversees federal prosecutors, including U.S. Attorneys handling matters referred by Mueller, such as the Michael Cohen investigation in the Southern District of New York. As head of the Criminal Division, Benczkowski would be in a position to limit or suppress actions taken in the Mueller investigation and related investigations, and serve as a backchannel of information about the investigation to Sessions or Trump.
Benczkowski previously worked for Jeff Sessions in the Senate and served as head of the Trump transition team at the DOJ. He has no prosecutorial experience. He represented Putin-allied Alfa Bank which has been accused of a secret computer connection with the Trump Organization. It is not publicly known whether that relationship remains under investigation. While Benczkowski has agreed to recuse himself from Alfa Bank matters, he refuses to commit to recuse from the Russia investigation. For these reasons, all 10 Democrats on the Senate Judiciary Committee have written a letter saying his nomination should be withdrawn.
Despite these objections, the Senate Judiciary Committee approved Benczkowski’s nomination and the full Senate is likely to vote on it this coming week. Benczkowski would be in a position to replace Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein if the campaign that House Republicans are waging to replace him succeeds.
This is [NAME] and I’m a constituent in [ZIP].
I urge Sen [____] to vote no on the nomination of Brian Benczkowski to head the Criminal Division of the DOJ.
Benczkowski has no prosecutorial experience, worked on the Trump transition team and represented Putin-affiliated Alfa Bank. He has refused to recuse from Russia-related matters, which puts him in a position to interfere with Robert Mueller’s investigation and related matters.
The American people deserve a full investigation of Russia’s interference in our election and any connection with the Trump campaign without the appearance of potential conflict.
On 16 February, special prosecutor Robert Muellercharged 13 Russian citizens with interfering in the 2016 US presidential election. The indictment reads almost like a crime novel and describes in detail how the “troll factory” tried to influence public opinion in America. It lists the use of fake accounts created with the stolen identities of the US citizens, information about specific actions, including the amounts allocated to them, etc. Most importantly, the text of the indictment plainly states that since February 2016 Kremlin operatives had focused on supporting two presidential candidates: Donald Trump and Bernie Sanders, and then, once the primaries were over, only Donald Trump.
In fact, there is nothing surprising in this document. Of course, before the publication of the indictment, we did not know the exact sums or names of the defendants, and not all of the fake accounts used by Russian special services were known. However, for anyone who closely followed the course of the election campaign, it was obvious that the Kremlin was doing all in its power to advance its candidate. Let’s try to list some of the most obvious signs that we had previously brought to public attention and which fully corroborate the investigation findings. Read More
Before and during elections
All Russian mediaoutlets, both inside and outside the country, were working to discredit the democrats. Almost all news broadcasts in Russia were devoted to denigrating them. Russian-controlled hackers and WikiLeaks, which published the hacked information, worked against the democrats. As it turned out later, even the document on the basis of which the FBI reopened its case against Hillary Clinton before the election was forged.
Moreover, Moscow resorted to open nuclear blackmail, plainly stating that a nuclear war in the event of Clinton’s victory is all but certain. So, in October 2016, Russian television showed one TV special after another dedicated not only to the superior quality of Russian bomb shelters, but also to the technologies of anti-missile defense. The official channel of the Ministry of Defense of the Russian Federation showed a twenty-minute report under the screaming headline “Obama is threatening Russia!”, in which the US was called “an enemy of humanity”. Then the famous Russian journalist Alexander Sotnik published on his page a post from a woman who claimed that the adults in one of Moscow schools were scaring children with the prospect of a nuclear war with the US and death in case of Hillary Clinton’s victory in the presidential election.
It is no longer a secret that a group of enthusiastic American volunteers led by the CIA veteran Charles Leven created an informal movement to combat Russian misinformation on social networks. Subsequently, major American media outlets wrote about the group’s work. Since 2015, I was part of this team and repeatedly described the tactics of Russian trolls in 2015 and 2016. In 2016, massive armies of trolls that had been active in the American media space for several years, including in the professional community of LinkedIn, suddenly changed their position from pro-Putin to pro-Trump, and I, participating in the work of the team identifying these trolls, personally tracked this transformation. We certainly did not know the scale of the work of the “specialists from Olgino”, but some things were indisputable:
“established” and subsequently exposed trolls pretending to be American, French and other foreign citizens published materials that supported Donald Trump and slandered his rivals;
numerous materials, including memes, pictures, slogans, slanderous passages, etc. were developed in Russia, which I proved by locating their primary sources in Russian in Russian media before their English-language versions showed up a few months later. In particular, these memes dealt with conspiracy theories about “Soros’s collaboration with the Nazis”, photoshopped fakes of Hillary Clinton and Obama, unconfirmed allegations that Obama is allegedly in cahoots with the Muslim terrorists, etc. Since I had spent several years studying contemporary Russian propaganda, the style of this work, its wording, the “arguments” and quotes being used left no doubt as to where and by whom these materials were created. Specific examples of such work are now abundantly presented in the materials of the criminal case.
my friend, a graduate American linguist, who has lived in the US since she was five years old and who has a great feel for the English language, easily identified foreigners who were writing under the guise of Americans, and she personally also uncovered a number of trolls. Of course, we repeatedly pointed out our observations in our articles.
In addition to working with Americans “under a foreign flag,” the overwhelming majority of the Russian-language media in the US also took a stridently pro-Trump position. This even applied to the media outlets that positioned themselves as “opposition” and “anti-Putin”. Moreover, these trolls were actively promoting Trump even in the Russian-speaking communities hostile to Moscow, for example, among the Ukrainians in the United States. In short, spreading Moscow propaganda among immigrants became an important part of the Russia’s information war with America.
At the same time, as it later became known, almost all the members of the Trump’s team had very close ties to Moscow before the election and that included financial ties. Over the past year, the US media has written so much about the connections and contacts of Michael Flynn, Paul Manafort, Carter Page, Jared Kushner, etc. and about the first charges brought against some of them that there is no point in reiterating it here.
In addition to their ties to Russia “at the very top,” the American right-wingers maintain close contacts with Moscow at various levels. After the incident in Charlottesville in August 2017, American press published detailed information on the connections of the local extreme right with the Russian right-wing ideologist Alexander Dugin and other agents of the Kremlin’s influence. Of course, this does not negate the fact that Moscow tried to influence the extreme left flank of the US political spectrum as well, using the “foreign flag” to contact both groups of radicals.
However, the US extreme right clearly represents a greater priority for the Kremlin, primarily because of its nature. Unlike the left-wing radicals who adhere to anarchist views and therefore are not represented in power and do not participate in politics, remaining instead a rather marginal “street” movement, the ultra-right try to actively influence our political system. They use patriotic slogans which can attract more followers, participate in government, and prefer not the utopian communist anarchy, but the nationalist dictatorship – the very one that Trump and his admirers are trying to build in the US.
On top of that, Russia does not have a ready-made “ideology for export” aimed at the left because, as part of its international image, it tries to adhere to the concept of the “guardian of traditional values” focused exclusively on conservatives. Therefore, Moscow’s interactions with the left radicals are carried out mainly through fake accounts – with the goal of creating chaos and creating a “picture” needed for greater radicalization of those on the right. But when it comes to the right-wing extremists, Moscow maintains direct contacts in addition to the online presence, which gives it enough leverage to influence those on the right of the political spectrum (given that the structures of the far right are better organized than those on the left).
In addition, Moscow maintains contacts with the Republicans not only on “top” and “bottom”, but also on many levels in between. This includes Russian lobbyists’ links with the NRA and contacts with some think tanks (the most memorable of them were described in detail last year by Russian publicist Andrei Piontkovsky). It is no accident that the American press published entire articles on how the Republican Party in recent years has become a “party of Putin.”
Donald Trump’s behavior during the election campaign clearly indicated that he fully and completely accepted Moscow’s help. Trump often cited Russian propaganda and all the conspiracy theories used by Moscow: from describing Ukraine as in “chaos from the war unleashed by Obama” to blatant slander against the United States. In particular, he claimed that “America is in a catastrophic state and it lacks democracy” and that his country is no better than Russia, where dissidents are routinely murdered. It used to be that such statements were only heard from the radical left anarchists, but under Trump they quite organically blended into the Republican agenda.
Trump took every opportunity to loudly admire Putin, actively defend him even when he had to go against the facts and interests of his own country, call on Russian hackers to continue their hacking in order to search for “missing emails” and he never condemned Putin even when his crimes against the United States became apparent. Moreover, not being confident that he will win, Trump threatened to ignore the results of the election and preemptively declared them “falsified”, calling on his supporters to engage in mass protests. American experts rightly assumed that such an idea could only be suggested to Trump by Putin, who perceived the protests of 2011-12 in Russia strictly as a product of the outside influence.
By the way, Trump reacted predictably to the information published in April of last year that the CIA had provided a detailed report to President Obama in August 2016, which noted that Vladimir Putin personally gave an order to intervene in the American election with a specific goal to damage the candidate from the Democratic Party Hillary Clinton and help elect her opponent, Donald Trump.
Trump went on a Twitter rampage in which, contrary to all facts, he repeatedly hinted that since Obama had not taken action against Russian interference in the elections, it can only mean that the intervention was carried out in favor of the Democrats. Thus, he revealed his own logic and how he himself would act in this case. In fact, he clearly showed that from his point of view, a hostile state can only be punished if it harms your own interests. On the other hand, if the enemies’ actions bring you personal gain, no measures should be taken against them. And, as we can see, Trump’s behavior was guided by this logic. The Kremlin, for its part, did not hide its glee over the Trump election victory, and the State Duma deputies celebrated this event with champagne.
After the election
After the election, Trump’s Russian policy not only continued on the same course but was ramped up. What followed was Trump’s open support of Vladimir Putin, quoting him uncritically, defending and praising him, combined with the outright mockery of the conclusions of his own intelligence. A comparison of the intelligence community with the German Nazi SS a year ago was regarded by many American experts as a direct threat to national security. Trump publicly and repeatedly insisted that Russia did not interfere in the American elections (in light of this, it is especially amusing to observe how actively he denies his own words today).
In addition, the US president intensified attacks on other American institutions, in particular, the independent press (which he called an “enemy of the people”), independent courts (recall his attacks on American judges) and the opposition, which he labeled as “traitors” for refusing to applaud him. Thus, Trump is deliberately trying to destroy key American institutions that ensure the preservation of democracy and the principle of separation of powers. At the same time, by strange coincidence, those attacks escalated exactly when the investigation of “Russiagate” revealed new facts, and as it was getting closer to Trump and his entourage.In addition to his angry rhetoric, Trump took a number of steps that put pressure on the US law enforcement agencies. On May 9th of last year, he fired the FBI director, James Comey, after a prior meeting in which he demanded Comey’s personal loyalty and requested that he drop any investigation of Michael Flynn, which Comey refused. As the American media subsequently found out, last summer he also considered the possibility of the dismissal of the special prosecutor Mueller. Finally, the publication of the “Nunes Memorandum,” which, according to the veterans of intelligence and counterintelligence, inflicted enormous damage on the American security became the culmination of Trump’s war with the American intelligence community.
Meanwhile, Trump continued to support Putin as part of his foreign policy. In particular, the American president constantly insisted on cooperation with Moscow in the “fight against terrorism”, repeated that he believed Putin, and stubbornly refused to criticize him. He did not want to sign the law on sanctions until the very last day, calling it “anti-constitutional,” and even now, according to the experts, he personally or through his assistants managed to classify parts of the “Kremlin report”, which blocks the possibility of immediate application of the US law designed to combat money laundering by criminal means. At the same time, Trump managed to ruin relations with the main foreign allies of the United States – also to Moscow’s great pleasure
This “bromance” between the two leaders became so obvious that even the well-known Russian-American historian, security specialist and the late Alexander Litvinenko’s collaborator, Yuri Felshtinsky, noted that “all the details of the agreement between Putin and Trump are out in the open because both sides are so candid about them. It’s as though they’re trying to make it perfectly clear that they are in alliance“.
The apex of this policy was the recent combination of three events: classifying of the most important parts of the “Kremlin report”, as mentioned above, inviting sanctioned Russian spy chiefs to visit the US, and the notorious “Nunes memorandum”. After that, even Russian military analysts could not restrain their joy and admitted that Trump acts in their interests.
“The publication of Devin Nunes’s report and the investigation of the materials presented in it portend a large-scale purge of the FBI, other US special services and the DOJ, and a political earthquake in Congress. The intelligence services are the main institutions of American democracy, and if Trump managed to co-opt them, then the days of the fake globalist press and the Congress that has fallen into imbecility are numbered,”predicted the authors of the Military Review, rejoicing that Trump “went on the offensive”, wasn’t afraid to openly communicate with the Russian intelligence and will soon achieve the complete destruction of the mechanism of separation of powers, free press and independent, law-abiding judiciary.
At the same time, all the leaders of the US intelligence agencies are unanimous in their opinion: Moscow will try to intervene in the forthcoming midterm elections in November 2018. Even Trump-appointed Director of National Intelligence Dan Coats said that the threat is quite real, and the American public must be informed in order “to not allow some Russians to tell us how we should vote.” However, Trump still hasn’t declared what steps he’ll take to counter the threat.
“Indictments from Special Counsel Robert Mueller, and the president’s response to them, point to a more troubling and increasingly likely motivation: President Trump does not want to stop Kremlin interference intended to sway our elections in his favor. Rather, he welcomes it… Rather than echo this cry from our intelligence community, the president is actively obstructing efforts to stop the attacks… Trump still promotes divisive anti-American propaganda messaging from the Kremlin, and continues to cover for Putin by misleading Americans about Russian interference,” – writes in his article the former CIA officer, the head of the new conservative movement “Stand Up Republic” Evan McMullin. Rep. Adam Schiff (D-CA), Ranking Member of the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence expressed the same fears in his speech.
Meanwhile, the Kremlin continues to support Trump using the same methods that were used during the election campaign:
The use of trolls and propaganda materials created “under a foreign flag”. In July 2017, I put out a report on the similarity between the propaganda strategies of “Putinism” and “Trumpism.” However, in addition to the apparent similarity of techniques and tactics, I often found identical language, pictures and slogans, not to mention rhetoric. A vivid example of the “flow” of Russian slander into American mass media is a smear against James Comey published in an English-language source, but using the Russian word pravda (truth), written in Latin letters.In general, discrediting the investigation and slandering investigators has now become the main theme of both the Republican propaganda and the Russian one supporting it. Let’s recall the rhetoric from the aforementioned Military Review article “Trump Is Ours Again”, where the investigation by the special prosecutor, the FBI and the Department of Justice is called a “conspiracy against Trump and fabricating false accusations against him,” organized by the “informal party of neocons-globalists.”
It’s worth mentioning that the Russian trolls increased their activity right before the release of the “Nunes Memorandum”. The Twitter hashtag #ReleaseTheMemo was originally published by several Republican senators on January 18th of this year, and on the same day it was picked up by Wikileaks. At the same time, as indicated on the website of the American Alliance for Securing Democracy from January 14 to January 31, members of the Alliance studied 159 major articles distributed from the URLs of Kremlin-linked accounts on Twitter. As a result, it turned out that 31% of the trending links were devoted to the legends of the “Deep State” and attacks on the FBI, the Department of Justice and the Mueller probe. Half of these articles were devoted to the release of the “Nunes Memo”. Other targets of Russian trolls were Hillary Clinton, Andrew McCabe and Lindsey Graham. An anti-immigration theme was also trending. Based on this data, congressmen Dianne Feinstein and Adam Schiff sent a letter to the Twitter and Facebook management asking them to investigate the bot activity.
During this period, I monitored activities of various pro-Trump groups on social media, such as Trump 2020 groups on Facebook. The bulk of their posts in late January-early February had a #ReleaseTheMemo hashtag and demanded to release the memorandum. Moreover, pro-Trump activists did not hide the true purpose of their demand – the captions on a number of memes that were published directly claimed: “Release the memorandum – finish the investigation.”
Meanwhile, the Russian press continues to strongly support Trump. In particular, the business newspaper Vzglyad regularly quotes Trump’s passages regarding CNN as a source of “fake news”, translates his Twitter messages about “fake media out of control”, and also publishes their own “analytics” about how “CNN is on the verge of collapse”, being “trapped in anti-Trump propaganda and negative personnel selection.”
Kremlin continues its attempts to influence the Russian-speaking community. In early March of last year, “Ekho Moskvy” began to print one article after another that, while avoiding making excuses for Putin and his policies, nevertheless, in many respects, repeated the Kremlin’s rhetoric about “McCarthyism”, “Russophobia” and “innocent meetings with the Russian ambassador “. Journalist Mikhail Taratuta even called on Trump “to go on the attack”, gave detailed advice on attacking Democrats and rejoiced that Trump “landed a blow on his opponent.” And the author was not at all embarrassed that the “blow” he had in mind was the unconfirmed and subsequently discredited Trump’s statement that Obama allegedly listened to his telephone conversations.
American fans of Trump, especially in the Russian-speaking community, are also concerned about the progress of the investigation, and periodically put forward arguments against its continuation, which are strikingly reminiscent of Putin’s rhetoric during the protests of 2011-12. In particular, they tried to scare the Republicans with the “wrathful reaction of Trump voters” if the impeachment is allowed to go forward, and then pointed out that the continuation of the investigation could lead to violence and bloodshed in the streets, and therefore, “everything must be done to prevent it.”
Simply put, what we had here was ordinary blackmail, and Russian supporters of Trump explicitly warned that even if he was really guilty of unlawful ties with the Kremlin, law enforcement agencies and Congress shouldn’t bring the impeachment charges in order to avoid a “civil war”, and therefore one should turn a blind eye to his crimes, even if those are confirmed.
Trump is supported by the majority of the Russian-language media in the US and any insulting posts about Trump and Putin, along with the “Ukrainian propaganda”, are forbidden in the closed social media groups for Russian Americans. Simultaneously, new social media groups for Russian-American Republicans voters are being formed. Of course, in itself, such actions are absolutely legal, but their zealotry and wide reach into the Russian-speaking population are alarming.
Another phenomenon worth mentioning are American followers of Trump who continue to actively disseminate defamatory material even after it’s been refuted by legal documents, investigations and sometimes even by Trump himself. Such blatant disdain for facts in a country with a free press and easy access to any alternative source of information is, to put it mildly, a very strange situation that cannot be attributed to a mere “delusion”.
Of course, in most cases, there is no direct collusion between these propagandists and Russia, but rather there is a clear lack of principles, which leads to putting the interests of the party or hatred of the political enemies above the interests of the country. The belief that “the end justifies the means” has already been repeatedly acted upon by the American radical right. However, let’s not forget the wording from the Mueller indictment, where it says that the accused acted “together with other persons known and unknown to the Grand Jury.” Thus, we should expect to be presented with the new charges.
From all this, we can draw the main conclusion: Russia’s interference in the internal affairs of the United States and its support for actions that benefit Russia but are destructive for America do not apply only to past or future elections. It continues today, not stopping for a single day. A year ago, I wrote that the Cold War moved inside the United States borders. Now, the future of not only American democracy, but also the vector of development of the entire Western civilization depends on its outcome.