One of the lessons that reverberates from the whole Watergate investigation is that “Deep Throat” counseled Woodward and Bernstein to “follow the money.” To the extent that holds for the investigation into whether or not the Trump campaign cooperated with Russian attempts to influence the 2016 election, a guy by the name of Mikhail Kalugin – head of the Economics Section of the Russian Embassy in the U.S. at the time – is a critical piece of the puzzle.
While his name is misspelled, here is what the Steele dossier says about Kalugin:
…a senior Russian MFA official reported that as a prophylactic measure, a leading Russian diplomat, Mikhail Kulagin, has been withdrawn from Washington at short notice because Moscow feared his heavy involvement in the US presidential election operation, including the so-called veterans’ pension ruse (reported previously), would be exposed in the media there.
The “so-called veterans’ pension ruse” is reported in the dossier to be the way that Russia arranged to pay hackers and others who were involved in the presidential election operation. That report is dated September 14th and, as it turns out, Kalugin actually left DC and returned to Russia in August. Even more significantly, here is what McClatchy reported about Kalugin last month.
A Russian diplomat who worked in the Washington embassy left the country last August while federal investigators examined whether he played a key covert role in the alleged Kremlin-directed plot to influence last fall’s U.S. elections.
Two people with knowledge of a multi-agency investigation into the Kremlin’s meddling have told McClatchy that Mikhail Kalugin was under scrutiny when he departed. He has been an important figure in the inquiry into how Russia bankrolled the email hacking of top Democrats and took other measures to defeat Hillary Clinton and help Donald Trump capture the White House, said the sources, who spoke on the condition of anonymity because of the sensitivity of the investigation.
What’s interesting about this is that these sources suggest that Kalugin was under investigation back in August – which would pre-date his mention in the Steele dossier. All of this points to the idea that U.S. intelligence was pretty deeply involved in investigating this story – and as the Steele documents indicate – the Russians knew it. Getting Kalugin out of the country would have been a way to ensure that his secrets left with him.
Last night Rachel Maddow did a lengthy segment where she got into all the details of what this means. First and foremost is the fact that so many of the facts contained in the Steele dossier are being corroborated. This element about Kalugin is only the latest. Beyond that, whenever people in the Trump campaign have been confronted with facts that back up the allegations in the dossier, they have chosen to lie about it. In light of that, it is important to keep in mind the big picture of what those documents purport to say: that not only did Russia interfere in the 2016 election, but that the Trump campaign colluded with them to do so.