Prominent Russian TV Station Reported Details of Trump’s Reaction to FBI Briefing That Were Not Public
The routine 2016 meeting for then-candidate Trump took place in New York.
On August 17, 2016, the Russian news channel Tsargrad TV reported that then-candidate Donald Trump had a meeting with the FBI to discuss national security issues. They added that Trump was “bored” and “learned nothing new” from the intelligence briefing.
US media reports at the time stated that Trump was set to receive his first intelligence briefing at the New York FBI field office. Governor Christie and General Flynn were also expected to attend. The full transcript of Trump’s remarks at his only public event on August 17 confirm that he did not publicly mention the FBI. It is unclear if the assertions by Tsargrad were simply bluster or if they were indeed privy to Trump’s reaction to the briefing.
The claim came from host Andrei Afanasyev tucked in the middle of an interview with Leonid Reshetnikov. Reshetnikov had a three decade career with Russian foreign intelligence and was the former head of the think tank Russian Institute for Strategic Studies (RISS). In April, Reuters reported that Reshetnikov’s RISS was the group responsible for drawing up the plan for the 2016 US election interference campaign. Reshetnikov retired in January and was received at the Kremlin by President Putin who thanked him for his service.
Reshetnikov responded by saying,
Mr President, thank you very much for the attention you have given to the institute. I would like to say that we did our best for nearly eight years to implement your foreign policy concept. The policy of Russia and the policy of the President of Russia have been the cornerstone of our operation. I am sure that the institute staff, who worked hard these past years, will continue to provide analytical support for the implementation of the country’s foreign policy.
This is not the first time that Reshetnikov has been tied to the Trump team. In 2014, RISS signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) with the think tank created by the Greek Defense Minister, Panos Kammenos. Kammenos met with George Papadopoulos multiple times throughout 2016 and early 2017, and seemed to develop a close relationship to the Trump adviser, noting how important Papadopoulos was by mentioning him in the tweet congratulating Trump on his election victory.
The Memorandum of Understanding allows for the consistent flow of information between the two think tanks, signifying a common path of action. Just under 18 months after that MoU was signed, Papadopoulos was in Greece meeting with Kammenos regularly.
The TV station Tsargrad is owned by a man named Konstantin Malofeev. He is under US and EU sanctions for his role in financing the Russian militias that annexed Crimea and continue to fight in eastern Ukraine. The EU and US claim that he sponsored terrorist to invade Ukraine and start a conflict. Over the years, Malofeev has been described as “Putin’s right-hand man” and, “Putin’s [George] Soros.” On a trip to Moscow in late 2015, Turkish intelligence agent Ismail Hakki Pekin (who also just happened to work with the Flynn Intel Group) met leaders in the Russian capital, including Malofeev. Bloomberg described the encounter:
“[Aleksander] Dugin introduced Malofeev as Putin’s “right-hand man,” and the Turks came to learn the financier really can “knock on Putin’s door.”
“That’s how the trip became effective,” Pekin said. “We knew what we said went directly to Putin.”
Malofeev, a devout Russian Orthodox Catholic, has extreme views, including advocating for the “cleansing” of Ukrainians by Russian forces. He founded the nationalist news channel that now has over 20 million viewers as a religious news organization. The 42-year-old oligarch has likened it to Russia’s version of Fox News.
Soon after getting the idea to start his own news channel, Malofeev hired a man by the name of Jack Hanick, a former Fox News producer. According to Hanick’s LinkedIn page, he was a founding member of Fox News alongside Roger Ailes and worked there from 1996–2011. Hanick met Ailes in 1994 according to his own recollection, describing Ailes as his “mastermind” and “a real teacher.” Ailes went on to advise then-candidate Trump before the Presidential debates. At Fox News, Hanick’s list of duties was extensive: he created the pilots for the launch of Fox News, directed various specials, and directed Sean Hannity’s show.
A former co-worker of Hanick’s, who declined to be named, told me that Hanick still occasionally communicates with his Fox News colleagues. Hanick, Fox News, and Sean Hannity all did not respond to requests for comment.
In 2015, Hanick attempted to purchase TV7 in Bulgaria to further spread his extreme right-wing religious view of the world. Hanick’s, “mission… [was] to represent the interests of the Russian Orthodox oligarch Konstantin Malofeev.” The sale was blocked after Bulgarian authorities learned that Malofeev was the man behind the money.
A Greek man named Giannis Karageorgis ended up buying TV7. Malofeev was the best man at Karageorgis’s wedding in 2015. The wedding was also attended by the Greek Defense Minister Panos Kammenos. Malofeev said that Kammenos was the “life and soul” of the party.
Karageorgis was arrested in Greece in 2016 after the Netherlands issued an international warrant for his arrest. He is currently facing charges of fraud, forgery and fraudulent bankruptcy.
In May 2016, Hanick and his family moved from New York to Moscow and converted to Russian Orthodoxy.
Alex Jones has appeared on Tsargrad as well, speaking with Aleksander Dugin, Putin’s favorite philosopher:
In July 2016, Trump adviser Carter Page went to Moscow and delivered a speech to the New Economic School in Moscow. After this trip, Page emailed campaign officials saying, “that he had received valuable insights from legislators and senior members of the Russian presidential administration.” In his testimony to the House Intelligence Committee, Page confirmed that Jeff Sessions was among the officials he told about his trip. The only major TV station that covered Page before, during, and after the speech was Tsargrad, presented by the think tank called Katehon.
Who is on the board of directors at Katehon?
To make these complicated, intertwined relationships comprehensible, I created this flowchart:
- September, 2014 — Malofeev and Hanick co-found Tsargrad.
- November, 2014 —Kammenos’s think tank signs MoU with RISS.
- December, 2015 — Turkish officials learn that Malofeev is Putin’s “right-hand man.”
- Throughout 2016 — Papadopoulos and Kammenos develop close relationship.
- March 31, 2016 — Papadopoulos, in a meeting with Sessions, Trump and others, states, “in sum and substance, that he had connections that could help arrange a meeting between then candidate Trump and President Putin.”
- May, 2016 — Hanick moves to Moscow and converts to Russian Orthodoxy.
- June, 2016 — RISS sends documents to Putin outlining a road map to influence the US election.
- July 7, 2016 — Carter Page gives speech in Moscow and meets with senior members of Putin’s administration.
- August 15, 2016 — : Trump campaign national co-chairman Sam Clovis emails Papadopoulos to say “I would encourage you” to make a trip to Russia with another campaign adviser.
- August 19, 2016 — Tsargrad reports details of Trump’s meeeting with FBI that are not public.
- August 21, 2016 — Roger Stone tweets “trust me, it will soon be Podesta’s time in the barrel. #CrookedHillary”
- October 7, 2016 — WikiLeaks releases hacked emails from John Podesta.
- Summer/Fall 2016 — RISS plan put into place. It influences US election through a social media propaganda campaign in a sophisticated effort to damage Hillary Clinton.
On January 11, 2017, Nine days before being sworn in as the President of the United States, Donald Trump proclaimed, “I HAVE NOTHING TO DO WITH RUSSIA.”
Contact the Writer: @ScottMStedman