As Details Emerge, The 2016 Election Becomes More And More Incredible

Historians will look back at the 2016 election and wonder just how it all went so wrong. They will marvel at the fact that the dominant issue in the coverage of the campaign was a red-herring scandal about whether there was improper handling of totally banal emails by one candidate while the government knew that at least two of the top advisers to the other candidate were subject to manipulation by the Russians but hid that fact from the American voter. They will be equally confounded that the Russians were also able to successfully run an operation that ended up with the Director of the FBI intervening in the election on the side of the candidate, who the Director knew had advisers that were being influenced by the Russians, in a way never before seen in American history. Yet that is what happened.

Yesterday, we learned that intelligence agencies collected recorded conversation by top Russian officials discussing how they could use their influence with both then Trump campaign manager Paul Manafort and top Trump national security adviser Mike Flynn to sway the attitudes and opinions of Trump himself. It was information like this that caused CIA Director Brennan to refer the matter to the FBI for a counter-espionage investigation.

Manafort, in particular, had a long history with the Russians due to his decade-long period as adviser for the Russians and their candidate, Viktor Yanukovych, in Ukraine. For that duty, he was paid millions not only by Yanukovych but presumably by the Russians as well. His selection as campaign manager was one of the more interesting developments early on in the campaign as he had no history or particular skill-set for US domestic politics for well over a decade. On the other hand, he made perfect sense for the Russians. And, as is made clear by the limited financial history we know about him, Manafort always made sure he got paid. Since he was ostensibly working for Trump for free, the open question is who exactly was paying him.

Flynn, as well, was getting directly paid by the Russians. So far, reports have shown that Flynn received over $65,000 in direct payments from Russian-backed firms in 2015 alone, the largest portion of which was for a trip to Moscow to speak at the Kremlin propaganda arm, RT, and attend its gala dinner with a seat right next to Vladimir Putin.

As Malcolm Nance said last night on MSNBC, it seems as though Russian officials were almost treating Flynn and Manafort as controlled intelligence assets. Manafort’s getting the RNC platform changed on Crimea could well be proof of that direct influence. And, as Brennan pointed out in his testimony yesterday, “Frequently, individuals who go along that treasonous path do not even realize they’re along that path until it gets to be too late.” This statement could well apply to both Flynn and Manafort.

In addition, we also learned yesterday that part of the reason that James Comey felt obligated to hold the press conference in violation of DOJ procedures where he lambasted Clinton for her “extremely careless” handling of emails was because of a document created by the Russians cited an email claiming that Attorney General Loretta Lynch had compromised herself in the investigation. The document, which was somehow provided to the FBI as a purported Russian intelligence analysis, claimed that the Russians had intercepted an email from the DNC Chair Debbie Wasserman-Schultz to a member of the George Soros’ funded Open Society Foundation claiming that Attorney General Loretta Lynch had informed a member of the Clinton campaign that she would not let the Clinton email investigation go too far.

This document, along with Bill Clinton’s meeting with Lynch on the tarmac in Arizona, led Comey to believe that Lynch could not be trusted in the email investigation and prompted his unprecedented press conference. It turns out, however, that not long after that press conference, the FBI determined that this document was a forgery and Comey had himself become a victim of the Russian hacking of our election. But it also highlights Comey’s initial reaction about everything seemingly associated with Democrats and that is that they are always trying to hide something. Rather than waiting for the full analysis of this document which eventually showed it was forged, he was inclined to believe it and acted on it. And rather than waiting to do a full analysis of the Abedin emails, he again believed it was “new information” when it turned out they were all duplicates.

As I detailed in a prior post, the coordination between the members of what became the Trump campaign and Russian interests existed long before the campaign even started. Trump had been getting his financing from Russian money for well over a decade. Manafort had essentially been on the Russian payroll for about that long as well. Flynn was a more recent addition, getting paid by Russian after he was fired by Obama as DNI. They all knew that whatever could do to please the Russians would just keep the money rolling in. They didn’t really need direct instructions. But that doesn’t mean that they didn’t get them.

Originally published at on May 25, 2017.

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