Does Putin Control Trump?

The Buzzfeed document dump calls the question

Having spent nearly a decade evaluating and using various intelligence sources while working as a CIA military analyst in a previous life, it will probably come as no surprise that I have some thoughts on the material Buzzfeed made public yesterday.

Source credibility: CNN has reported that “The allegations came, in part, from memos compiled by a former British intelligence operative, whose past work US intelligence officials consider credible…The memos originated as opposition research, first commissioned by anti-Trump Republicans, and later by Democrats.” We know nothing about the track record of this alleged former MI-6 operative, the company s/he allegedly runs/owns, its board of directors, etc. What we have been told — by a news organization (CNN) that held back on the documents out of concerns about their veracity — is that the individual in question runs a business focused on getting political dirt. Moreover, the internal company reports leaked by Buzzfeed show that the company itself did not have an employee or employees working Russian sources directly, but instead were utilizing yet-to-be-identified intermediaries who claimed to have direct access to key Russian government officials, private sector and NGO actors who were directly involved in the Russian government-sponsored influence operation. I find it highly unlikely that the Russians in question — who know perfectly well the penalty in Putin’s Russia for talking to Western intelligence operatives or those suspected of ties to the same — would’ve provided information on the Kremlin’s super-secret American election influence operation to the firm in question. Advice: approach with extreme caution.

A real lead: The story that should be getting attention is a recent Guardian report on signals intelligence (SIGINT) developed by GCHQ (Britain’s NSA). Specifically, “British intelligence reportedly provided a vital tipoff to the US in 2015 about the extent of Russian hacking on the presidential election…The UK’s role suggests that the compromise of email exchanges among senior Democrats was spotted when voice intercepts, computer traffic or agents picked up content of the emails flowing towards Moscow.” It’s highly unlikely that that this GCHQ info is coming from the above referenced shadowy oppo research outfit, but from real technical intelligence, probably from multiple sources. Advice: Follow this one closely.

The most sensational claim: The entire “golden shower”/prostitute story is at odds with everything else we know about how Donald Trump deals with women. Trump could buy all the prostitutes he wants; there’s no challenge in that for him. If you look at all the stories from women who came out last year & accused Trump of inappropriate advances or behavior, all were in legal, above-board career fields of one kind or another. If you go back to the “Access Hollywood” incident involving Trump, Billy Bush, and Trump’s account of his attempts to seduce Nancy O’Dell, you see the pattern quite clearly. Advice: This “golden shower” story about Trump is a wholesale fabrication.

Why are we only hearing about this now? It’s clear that these reports have been circulating in Washington for months, and that other news organizations previously attempted — and failed — to verify the accounts now made public by Buzzfeed. That’s just one more reason to question the veracity of the documents, and the motives of those who circulated them so widely but clandestinely starting last summer. Advice: Proceed with caution.

Does any of this remotely prove Putin controls Trump? Not by a long country mile. As I’ve stated previously, I have no real doubt that the Russian government tried its best to influence the outcome of #Election2016. But is Vladimir Putin Donald Trump’s personal handler, able to direct Trump to take actions inimical to U.S. national security interests and favorable to Moscow’s? On the basis of the data currently available, the answer is a resounding “no.” That does not, however, remotely mean that our new Commander-in-Chief will make remotely sound decisions vis a vis Russia. I just expect his stumbles to be all of his own making. Advice: Ask for real evidence to be declassified and made public.

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