Itâ€™s all over but the shouting and the presidency of Donald J. Trump is upon us. In nine days, Mr. Trump will be sworn in as the 45th president of the United States. Billionaire businessman, celebrity, tweetmaster, Mr. Trump has changed American politics even before taking office, rewriting the political playbook and sending shock waves through Washington.
Fasten seat belts, itâ€™s looking like a rough ride. On the Russian front, in particular, several recent developments point to a gathering storm for the Trump presidency.
The blockbuster was last weekâ€™s â€œAssessing Russian Activities and Intentions in the Recent U.S. Elections,â€ from the Office of the Director of National Intelligence. It is short and you should read it here, but in case youâ€™ve been living in a cave, the main conclusion was that Russian President Vladimir Putin executed a sweeping â€œinfluence campaignâ€ aimed at the 2016 election, which morphed from an effort to â€œdenigrateâ€ Hillary Clinton into an aspiration to â€œhelpâ€ Mr. Trump. Russian military intelligence was a key player in the effort, which â€œreflected years of investmentâ€ by the Kremlin. The Russians stole emails and other data from â€œboth major U.S. political partiesâ€ and passed it on to WikiLeaks and other sources.
Mr. Trumpâ€™s team has been swinging hard against any notion that the Russians tilted the election. (The IC report did not go there, stating that it â€œdid not make an assessment of the impact that Russian activities had on the outcome of the 2016 election.â€) After a classified briefing on the Russian activities, Mr. Trump released a statement saying â€œthere was absolutely no effect on the outcome of the election, including the fact that there was no tampering whatsoever with voting machines.â€
From London, WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange echoed the Trump pushback. He denied the leaked documents came from â€œa state partyâ€ (Russia) and called the IC report â€œa political attackâ€ against Mr. Trump and an effort to â€œdelegitimize the election.â€
Mr. Assange has a starring role in an important new book just out from legendary investigative writer Edward Jay Epstein, â€œHow America Lost Its Secrets: Edward Snowden, The Man and the Theft.â€ A sweeping chronicle of espionage and betrayal in the Putin era, Mr. Epsteinâ€™s book should be required reading at the Trump White House.
Mr. Epstein nails Mr. Assange as a tool of Moscow. After Mr. Snowden stole huge amounts of the National Security Agencyâ€™s most sensitive secrets and fled to Hong Kong, Mr. Assange â€œcounseled Snowden to go directly to Russia,â€ Mr. Epstein writes. In an excerpt of the book published in the Wall Street Journal, Mr. Epstein notes that Mr. Putin â€œpersonally authorizedâ€ assistance to Mr. Snowden in his escape from Hong Kong and WikiLeaks provided â€œa smokescreenâ€ by booking diversionary flight reservations to other destinations.
Other Russian connections are emerging as well. Earlier this week, the influential national security writer John Schindler, tweeting as @20committee, launched a tweet storm charging that the Trump Organizationâ€™s ties to Russian organized crime â€œare well known in certain circles,â€ including U.S. intelligence.
Schindler tweeted that the footprints of alleged Russian mob boss Semion Mogilevich â€œare all over the Trump [Organization] since early 1990s.â€ A Mogilevich capo, Vyacheslav Ivankov, later murdered in Moscow, for three years was â€œdividing his time between Trump Tower and [Trumpâ€™s] Taj Mahal Casino,â€ until the FBI caught up with him, Schindler reports. â€œMogilevich has a very cozy relationship with Putin and his special services, going back to KGB days,â€ Schindler says.
Schindler is not alone on the Russian mob story, but he is lonely. Most of the media, he says, are taking a pass, bewildered by the complexity of the Russian underworld and a murky money trail, wary of the litigious master of Trump Tower and nervous about the story because, well, the Russian mafia â€œkill people.â€ At the American Interest, James Henry has a lengthy piece connecting some dots. And rumor has it that the FT is digging deep into the Trump World money trail. In October, the FT published a report, â€œDirty Money: Trump and the Kazakh Connection.â€
The Trump Organization has said any suggestion of improper behavior is pure fiction. â€œ[T]his narrative,â€ Trump special counsel Michael Cohen told the FT, â€œis both misleading and fabricated. Perpetuation of this false connectionâ€¦or any connection with Russia altogetherâ€”is yet another example of the pressâ€™s liberal bias toward Mr. Trump.â€
In a sign of things to comeâ€”information wars and rumors of warsâ€”yesterday the Russian saga took a sensational twist with the publication by BuzzFeed of a purported intelligence dossier containing allegations of payoffs, secret meetings and sexual misconduct by Mr. Trump and his associates. The allegations are â€œtotally fake, totally inaccurate,â€ Mr. Cohen told the Atlantic. Mr. Trump was more emphatic. Â â€œFAKE NEWS,â€ he tweeted. â€œA TOTAL POLITICAL WITCH HUNT!â€
Micah Morrison is chief investigative reporter for Judicial Watch. Follow him on Twitter @micah_morrison. Tips: email@example.com
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