A Month of #TrumpRussia Collusion

According to new reporting from NBC News, both the Clinton and Trump campaigns received a special briefing from senior officials of the FBI’s counterintelligence team not long after their candidates secured their respective party’s nominations. They were warned that foreign countries, including Russia, would seek to infiltrate their organizations, and they were advised on how to detect these approaches and who to contact at the FBI in response.

The briefings were led by counterintelligence specialists from the FBI, the sources said. They were timed to occur around the period when the candidates began receiving classified intelligence, the officials said, which put them at greater risk for being targeted by foreign spies. Trump’s first intelligence briefing as Republican nominee was Aug. 17, 2016, sources told NBC News at the time.

The exact date of these briefings hasn’t been divulged, but we can be certain that Trump and his team were contacted after he officially became the nominee on July 19th, and prior to August 17th when he received his first intelligence briefing.

Trump would have been told, “If you see these kinds of contacts please let us know about them so we can keep you updated on the threat picture,” said Frank Montoya, a former FBI counterintelligence agent and supervisor who retired in 2016.

So, let’s take a look at this time period.

On July 18th, J.D Gordon weakened the Republican platform to make it less supportive of arming Ukraine. On the 20th, Jeff Sessions met personally with Russian ambassador Sergey Kislyak. The same day, Donald Trump announced that support of NATO allies in the face of Russian aggression would be conditional.

On July 22nd, WikiLeaks released about 20,000 emails the Russians had stolen from the headquarters of the Democratic National Committee’s servers.

On the 24th, Roger Stone’s secret emissary to Julian Assange, Randy Credico, tweeted out a link to an Assange article that promised his next leak would assure the arrest of Hillary Clinton. Credico also posted on his Facebook page that Clinton’s supporters are all racists and asked that they “unfriend” him. Donald Trump Jr. also stated that it was a “disgusting lie” for the Clinton campaign to suggest that the Russians might be behind the WikiLeaks disclosures.

On the 25th, the FBI announced that they suspected that this “disgusting lie” was in fact the truth and that they would be investigating the Russian role. On the 26th, intelligence officials informed the White House that they had “high confidence” that Russia was behind the DNC hacks. This suspicion was backed up by several independent cybersecurity experts.

Donald Trump responded to this on the 27th by publicly calling on Russia to hack Hillary Clinton’s emails from the private server she used as secretary of state. While Trump has making headlines doing that, his campaign chairman Paul Manafort was denying that he had any personal connections to the Russian government and saying that it’s “absurd” to suggest the Russians might be working to help Trump.

On the 28th, the FBI announced that they were looking into seperate hacks of the DCCC, and the DCCC would confirm that they too had been compromised on the twenty-ninth. Also on the 29th, the sinister “Black Caviar” email was sent:

On July 29, a week after Trump accepted the Republican nomination, Manafort received another email from [Konstantin] Kilimnik, this one with the subject line “Black Caviar.” “I met today with the guy who gave you your biggest black caviar jar several years ago,” Kilimnik wrote. “We spent about 5 hours talking about his story, and I have several important messages from him to you. He asked me to go and brief you on our conversation. I said I have to run it by you first, but in principle I am prepared to do it, provided that he buys me a ticket. It has to do about the future of his country, and is quite interesting. So, if you are not absolutely against the concept, please let me know which dates/places will work, even next week, and I could come and see you.”

Manafort agreed to the cryptic request, responding “Tuesday is best.”

Konstantin Kilimnik was recently identified in Mueller’s court papers as someone who has “ties to a Russian intelligence service.” The man who supplied Manafort with his “biggest black caviar jar” is undoubtedly the mobbed-up friend of Vladimir Putin, oligarch Oleg Deripaska, whom Manafort owed in excess of $15 million and to whom he had already offered private briefings on the status of the campaign.

On July 31st, Trump declared that the people of Crimea preferred to be ruled by Russia, which may or may not be true but certainly aligned with Russia’s view and undermined the case for sanctions.

On August 2nd, Paul Manafort and Konstantin Kilimnik met at the Grand Havana Club, a Manhattan cigar club, where they discussed “important messages” from Oleg Derispaska about the “future of his country.”

On August 9th, Julian Assange first floated the Seth Rich conspiracy theory which stated that the DNC had been hacked by one of their own. This would soon be picked up by right wing media outlets in the United States.

On August 10th, Roger Stone told a local Republican Party group in Florida “I’ve actually communicated with Julian Assange.” We later learn that this was through Randy Credico, acting as an intermediary.

On August 12th, the Russian composite character Guccifer 2.0 who is supposed to be a Romanian hacker responsible for the DNC theft sends a tweet to Roger Stone: “@RogerJStoneJr thanks that u believe in the real #Guccifer2.” Then Guccifer 2.0 releases the cellphone numbers and email addresses of almost all of the Democrats in the House of Representatives. Also on the 12th, ThreatConnect announces that DC Leaks appears to be linked to Russian intelligence services.

On the 13th, Roger Stone tweets that Guccifer 2.0 is a “hero.” On the 14th, Stone and Guccifer 2.0 have a conversation by Direct Message on Twitter. Also on the 14th, the New York Times reports that $12.7 million in cash was earmarked for Paul Manafort by the Russia-aligned Ukrainian Party of Regions. This will quickly lead to the end of Manafort’s official role with the Trump campaign.

On the 15th, campaign supervisor Sam Clovis told George Papadopoulos to “make the trip [to Russia], if it is feasible.” The same day, Roger Stone promised the World Net Daily that based on his communications with Julian Assange he could assure them that forthcoming material from WikiLeaks will be related to the Clinton Foundation.

On the 16th, Roger Stone told Alex Jones he has “backchannel communications” with Assange who has “political dynamite” on the Clintons.

That brings us up to the 17th, the day Trump received his first intelligence briefing with Michael Flynn at his side. It’s the same day that Kellyanne Conway and Steve Bannon were promoted. Manafort would be sacked on the nineteenth. On the 21st, Roger Stone tweeted that “it will soon the Podesta’s time in the barrel.”

So these are some of the activities of Trump, his campaign staff, his foreign policy advisers, and his good friend Roger Stone in the time period in which he received a counterintelligence briefing warning him that his campaign might be infiltrated by the Russians.  As a result, as the NBC News article makes clear, the briefing was a little awkward:

The situation was complicated by the fact that the FBI had already become aware of contacts between members of the Trump campaign and Russia, and was beginning to investigate further. Former CIA Director John Brennan has said he told the FBI about a pattern of contacts the CIA observed between members of the Trump team and Russians, and former FBI Director James Comey said the bureau then began investigating in July 2016.

If I were to extend my timeline forward in time, it would become painfully clear that the Trump team did not curtail their communications with WikiLeaks or the Russians after the intelligence briefing on August 17th.

Frank Figliuzzi, a former head of FBI counterintelligence and an NBC News analyst, said counterintelligence briefings “provide an opportunity for investigative subjects to be transparent with the bureau and to come back if such contacts are occurring because of admonishments by the bureau.”

If they fail to do that, he said, “a couple of factors could be at play: They didn’t spread the message to the rest of the team or there is some form of guilty conscience that prohibits them.”

So, I ask you in all sincerity, is it true as the president says that everyone agrees that there was no collusion?

Martin Longman

Martin Longman is the web editor for the Washington Monthly and the main blogger at Booman Tribune.