Pissing on the Ritz

If Trump poses a security risk he cannot take office

Let’s get the process stuff out of the way. Buzzfeed was right to release the private intelligence document containing damaging allegations against Trump. In UK terms it was clearly in the public interest to reveal the contents. Any state regulated broadcaster in the UK would have done so.

The conspiracy allegation

Next, the car crash of a press conference. It revealed with shocking clarity the way the Trump presidency is going to ride roughshod over the conventions that make up the bulk of US Constitutional reality. There is nothing in the Consitution that says the President cannot bully CNN, libel them on air, take down their brand, expose their journalists to potential threats and intimidation. Nothing.

That’s how America is going to run from now on. And the US media, fighting each other for his attention, failed the first test.

Now to the content of the dossier. As a journalist at Channel 4 News I saw several examples of official US intelligence documents which Edward Snowden leaked to the Guardian. Some I reported in public. (At all times strict and proportional security measures were overseen by my bosses).

The pissing allegation

The privately authored dossier given to Buzzfeed does not read like official secret intelligence.

Rather it reads like an unprocessed intelligence report. A lot of the sources are unverifiable and the document does contain the kind of caveats intelligence operatives would then put over the truth or provability of the information. But it does not contain proof, or a reasoned judgement, or peer-reveiewed professional opinions. Or rather it contains only as much as a small private operation with no big data surveillance could do. Some of the details turn out to be wrong.

All this leads me to believe the document is real.

The US intelligence agencies were so concerned about its contents that they included it in the briefing to Obama and to Trump. There is of course a chance that the entire thing is a “false flag” planted by the Kremlin itself, and we have to rely on professional intel people to make that judgment: they can investigate the UK former intel operative who is said to have compiled this thoroughly, using both data and human intelligence, and make a judgment.

So what does it say? Reassuringly, there is no proof that Trump is a Russian agent. Rather he is a person whose behavior with the Russians has opened him up to influence and to potential blackmail; and that his alleged behavior has been, prima facie, reckless (and, if it matters to you, immoral).

The blackmail risk allegation

If the document is correct, then it is certain that Russian intelligence have been supplying Trump direct and via proxies with dirt on his political (and possibly business) rivals for years. However, there’s a strong theme in the document about the Russians having “buyers remorse” — that is, by openly sabotaging Clinton and being seen to crudely manipulate the US electoral process, wise heads in the Kremlin, led by Dimitry Medvedev, realize they have screwed up.

The problem for Trump is, the allegations in the document leave him looking dangerously like a Russian “person of influence”, still capable of doing the very thing the report says the Russians aim for: dividing the West and turning the global system into one of rival great powers, not mutually co-operative ones.

The clever thing to have done would be to get Trump into the White House and just let him screw up globalisation and the international order with no reference to the Kremlin and no pissing parties in the Moscow Ritz Carlton. Hence the buyers’ remorse.

The buyers remorse report

For the USA’s NATO allies — also facing Kremlin sponsored ultra-right movements and parties — there is enough, even in the unprocessed and unproven intel, to cause major and immediate changes in both their intelligence sharing with the USA and in their military-diplomatic posture.

Beefing up conventional deterrence in the Baltics and Poland is the right thing to do — but it is pointless if the US president is even casually or potentially under the influence of Russian intelligence.

What we really need to know about now is not the raw material but the end product.

Obama has seen it, and so have the chiefs of the CIA and the FBI. The UK and French governments, as the nuclear armed P5 NATO allies, should be demanding right now as summary of what the CIA and FBI think are the risks of Kremlin-influenced POTUS.

At some point in the next 7 days the Obama administration must level with the American people as to the conclusion of the official intelligence about whether Trump poses a security risk to the USA.

If he is adjudged to pose a security risk then he cannot take office.

Absent that, it would be now wise for Britain, which is still part of the EU, to up its independent diplomatic and defence efforts towards collective security in Europe independent of the USA. The USA will, on 20 January, become an unreliable ally.

The point blank question for the US intelligence and security hierarchy is: on the basis of the processed intel, not the raw stuff alleged in the document, what are the risks that Trump is influenced by, and members of his administration actually controlled by, the Kremlin?

And what are the risks that of audio and video tape of his alleged sex parties and water-sports make him a) fatally susceptible to blackmail and pressure b) unfit to be president?

The danger with this document is that it is seen as just the latest chapter in the grand political fiasco that is Trump and the GOP.

It is much more: it is a serious and urgent security matter, not just for the USA but for its NATO allies.