Trump Jr.’s Rus­sia talk un­der­mines dossier claim

The Washington Times Weekly - - Politics - BY ROWAN SCAR­BOR­OUGH

The am­a­teur­ish na­ture of the in­fa­mous meet­ing be­tween Don­ald Trump Jr. and two Rus­sian lob­by­ists in June 2016 un­der­mines a ma­jor ac­cu­sa­tion in a so-called dossier: its as­ser­tion of a long, in­for­ma­tion-trad­ing re­la­tion­ship be­tween Rus­sian in­tel­li­gence and Don­ald Trump and his aides.

If the Trump team had such a pro­duc­tive Moscow li­ai­son for years, as the dossier, writ­ten by for­mer Bri­tish spy Christo­pher Steele, and his Rus­sian sources claim, then why did the pres­i­dent’s son need to lis­ten to two nom­i­nal Rus­sian sources, a for­mer U.S. in­tel­li­gence of­fi­cial asks.

“If the Trumps ac­tu­ally had a long-stand­ing re­la­tion­ship with the Rus­sian in­tel­li­gence ser­vices and were reg­u­larly re­ceiv­ing in­for­ma­tion on Hil­lary Clin­ton — this is one of the claims in the Steele dossier — there would be no rea­son to ac­cept a meet­ing with an un­known lawyer who claimed to have com­pro­mis­ing in­for­ma­tion,” Larry John­son, a for­mer CIA of­fi­cer and State Depart­ment coun­ter­in­tel­li­gence of­fi­cial, told The Wash­ing­ton Times.

“If I’m friends with the own­ers of the Wash­ing­ton Na­tion­als and get­ting box seat tick­ets from them, why would I go out on the street and buy tick­ets from a scalper? It just does not make sense.”

The dossier, fi­nanced by Demo­cratic money and con­tain­ing un­ver­i­fied ac­cu­sa­tions from a bevy of Rus­sian sources, says a Krem­lin source told Mr. Steele that the Rus­sians were pro­vid­ing dirt on Hil­lary Clin­ton to the Trump op­er­a­tion.

Some Democrats who have crit­i­cized for­eign in­flu­ence in U.S. elec­tions have em­braced the dossier and its Rus­sian sourc­ing and have spread the in­for­ma­tion around Wash­ing­ton, in­clud­ing at a key con­gres­sional hear­ing.

The Trump Jr. meet­ing was set up by a Rus­sian tal­ent agent who said the lawyer-lob­by­ist, Natalia Ve­sel­nit­skaya, had deroga­tory in­for­ma­tion on Mr. Trump’s op­po­nent, Mrs. Clin­ton. The As­so­ci­ated Press said an­other U.S.-based Rus­sian lob­by­ist, Ri­nat Akhmetshin, also at­tended the meet­ing.

Don­ald Trump Jr. told Fox News’ Sean Han­nity that Ms. Ve­sel­nit­skaya failed to pro­vide such op­po­si­tion re­search and in­stead wanted to lobby against an anti-Rus­sian sanc­tions law, the Mag­nit­sky Act.

Michael Ca­puto, a Trump cam­paign ad­viser who briefly ad­vised the Rus­sian gov­ern­ment years be­fore, tes­ti­fied at a closed hear­ing of the House Per­ma­nent Se­lect Com­mit­tee on In­tel­li­gence that he never heard the word “Rus­sia” in­side the Trump op­er­a­tion.

Mr. Ca­puto told Spec­trum News that Democrats are pur­su­ing a “col­lu­sion delu­sion” in a plan launched quickly af­ter Mrs. Clin­ton lost the elec­tion for the pur­pose of stop­ping Mr. Trump.

Mr. Steele’s memos, writ­ten for cash from Fu­sion GPS, a Demo­cratic Party-con­nected op­po­si­tion re­search firm, re­ferred at least a half-dozen times to a long-stand­ing TrumpRus­sian in­tel­li­gence con­nec­tion. Among his as­ser­tions:

“The Krem­lin had been feed­ing TRUMP and his team valu­able in­tel­li­gence on his op­po­nents, in­clud­ing Demo­cratic pres­i­den­tial can­di­date Hil­lary CLIN­TON for sev­eral years.”

“Fur­ther ev­i­dence of ex­ten­sive con­spir­acy be­tween TRUMP’s cam­paign team and Krem­lin, sanc­tioned at high­est lev­els and in­volv­ing Rus­sian diplo­matic staff based in the U.S.”

“Rus­sians re­ceiv­ing in­tel from TRUMP’s team on Rus­sian oli­garchs and their fam­i­lies in U.S.”

“A well-de­vel­oped con­spir­acy of co-op­er­a­tion be­tween [the Trump cam­paign] and the Rus­sian lead­er­ship.”

Trump and “his in­ner cir­cle have ac­cepted a reg­u­lar flow of in­tel­li­gence from the Krem­lin, in­clud­ing on his Demo­cratic and other po­lit­i­cal ri­vals.”

“Reg­u­lar ex­change with Krem­lin has ex­isted for at least 8 years, in­clud­ing in­tel­li­gence fed back to Rus­sia on oli­garchs ac­tivists in U.S.”

Dur­ing the cam­paign, the Trump team did not ap­pear to spring any anti-Clin­ton ads that were based on Moscow sourc­ing. If an ex­ten­sive con­nec­tion ex­isted for years, of­fi­cial pub­lic re­ports have not con­firmed it.

In fact, for­mer FBI Di­rec­tor James B. Comey tes­ti­fied to the con­trary last month be­fore the Se­nate Se­lect Com­mit­tee on In­tel­li­gence.

Democrats cite dossier’s lies

A New York Times story that said U.S.-in­ter­cepted com­mu­ni­ca­tions showed that Trump aides “had re­peated con­tacts with se­nior Rus­sian in­tel­li­gence of­fi­cers” was al­most en­tirely false, Mr. Comey tes­ti­fied. He said that when the story ap­peared in Fe­bru­ary, he im­me­di­ately no­ti­fied Repub­li­cans and Democrats that it was not true.

Mr. Comey said “many, many sto­ries” on the TrumpRus­sia probe were “dead wrong.”

A smat­ter­ing of in­tel­li­gence com­mit­tee mem­bers have said as late as June that they have not seen ev­i­dence of Trump-Rus­sian in­tel­li­gence col­lu­sion.

For­mer Trump cam­paign aides ar­gued that if there was any con­firmed col­lu­sion and co­or­di­na­tion with Rus­sians, it was by Democrats to de­stroy Mr. Trump.

It was Demo­cratic donors who funded Mr. Steele, who in turn paid Krem­lin sources to dish un­ver­i­fied dirt on Mr. Trump and his aides and ac­cused them of law­break­ing. He also ac­cused Mr. Trump of sala­cious ac­tiv­ity in a Moscow ho­tel room dur­ing his pro­moted 2013 Miss Uni­verse con­test there.

Mr. Steele packed his Rus­sia-fed al­le­ga­tions into a se­ries of memos handed out by Fu­sion GPS and Democrats to try to in­flu­ence the pres­i­den­tial elec­tion.

Af­ter Mr. Trump won the elec­tion, Democrats con­tin­ued to use the dossier to hurl charges, us­ing Rus­sian sources to ac­cuse Mr. Trump of Rus­sian col­lu­sion.

Rep. Adam B. Schiff of Cal­i­for­nia, the top Demo­crat on the House in­tel­li­gence com­mit­tee, read charges from the dossier at a much-watched hear­ing as if they were true. An­other Demo­crat tried to get Mr. Comey, a hear­ing wit­ness, to back up Mr. Steele’s con­tention that Mr. Trump met with pros­ti­tutes in Moscow.

In an ex­clu­sive Oval Of­fice in­ter­view with The Wash­ing­ton Times in April, the pres­i­dent said it was a dis­grace that Democrats were cit­ing a dossier that had been proved un­true in a num­ber of in­stances.

“The dossier has been to­tally dis­cred­ited, No. 1. No. 2, Adam Schiff is to­tally par­ti­san, as par­ti­san as you can get,” Mr. Trump said. “And No. 3, the Rus­sia story is a fake story. It was made up so that they can jus­tify the fact that Hil­lary Clin­ton lost an elec­tion that a Demo­crat should not lose be­cause it’s al­most im­pos­si­ble for a Demo­crat to lose the Elec­toral Col­lege. And not only did she lose, but she lost by a lot be­cause I got 306 and [she got] 232.”

Re­fer­ring to Mr. Steele, the pres­i­dent said, “He made it up.”

Mr. Steele said Mr. Trump’s per­sonal at­tor­ney, Michael Co­hen, trav­eled to Prague last year to or­ches­trate a hack­ing cover-up with Rus­sian agents. Mr. Co­hen said he had never been to Prague and pre­sented ev­i­dence that he was in Cal­i­for­nia at the time.

Per­haps no Trump as­so­ciate has felt the ram­i­fi­ca­tions of Mr. Steele’s Rus­sian sources more than Carter Page, whose busi­ness ca­reer as an en­ergy sec­tor in­vestor thrust him into many con­tacts with Rus­sians. Mer­rill Lynch sta­tioned him in Moscow for years.

He joined the Trump cam­paign as a vol­un­teer ad­viser but was cast aside when leaks from the dossier dur­ing the cam­paign ac­cused him of hav­ing dis­cus­sions on Rus­sian sanc­tions with Krem­lin fig­ures while on a pub­li­cized trip to Moscow to de­liver a speech in July.

Since then, Mr. Page has ded­i­cated much of his wak­ing hours to try­ing to clear his name from what he says are Mr. Steele’s “fabri­ca­tions.”

For ex­am­ple, Mr. Page said, he never met with the two Krem­lin fig­ures iden­ti­fied by Mr. Steele, and that while he knew of one of them he had never heard of the other.

‘What was their mo­ti­va­tion?’

A for­mer Navy of­fi­cer, Mr. Page has spent hours with FBI agents re­but­ting what Mr. Steele and his Rus­sian sources said about him. He has asked the Se­nate and House in­tel­li­gence com­mit­tees, which are in­ves­ti­gat­ing Rus­sian in­ter­fer­ence in the pres­i­den­tial elec­tion, to let him tes­tify, but he has been given no date.

Mr. Page told The Wash­ing­ton Times: “Congress has con­tin­ued to block my open pub­lic tes­ti­mony be­fore all of the com­mit­tees in both the House and Se­nate de­spite prior in­vi­ta­tions, in­clud­ing those whose se­nior Demo­cratic mem­bers re­peated count­less defam­a­tory lies against me from the ‘dodgy dossier’ dur­ing ex­ten­sive na­tion­ally tele­vised tes­ti­mony ear­lier this year.”

He ac­cused Democrats of a “per­sis­tent sup­port of the dom­i­na­trix tac­tics used by the Clin­ton-Obama-Comey regime to keep a sur­veil­lance leash on sup­port­ers of the Trump move­ment.”

Per­haps the best in­side look at how Mr. Steele did his work came from Michael Morell, a Hil­lary Clin­ton loy­al­ist who served as Pres­i­dent Obama’s act­ing CIA di­rec­tor.

“I have sub­se­quently learned that he used in­ter­me­di­aries,” Mr. Morell said in March at con­fer­ence spon­sored by Cipher Brief. “And then I asked my­self, ‘Why did th­ese guys pro­vide this in­for­ma­tion? What was their mo­ti­va­tion?’ And I sub­se­quently learned that he paid them, that the in­ter­me­di­aries paid the sources and the in­ter­me­di­aries got the money from Chris. And that kind of wor­ries me a lit­tle bit be­cause if you’re pay­ing some­body, par­tic­u­larly for­mer FSB of­fi­cers, they are go­ing to tell you truth and in­nu­endo and ru­mor, and they’re go­ing to call you up and say, ‘Hey, let’s have an­other meet­ing. I have more in­for­ma­tion for you.’ I think you’ve got to take all that into con­sid­er­a­tion when you con­sider the dossier.”

AS­SO­CI­ATED PRESS

Don­ald Trump Jr. told Fox News’ Sean Han­nity that lawyer­lob­by­ist, Natalia Ve­sel­nit­skaya failed to pro­vide such op­po­si­tion re­search and in­stead wanted to lobby against an anti-Rus­sian sanc­tions law, the Mag­nit­sky Act.

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