KGB agent linked to Trump dossier dead

Intriguing news – a KGB agent linked to the dossier compiled on Donald Trump is reported to have died in suspicious circumstances.

The Telegraph: Mystery death of ex-KGB chief linked to MI6 spy’s dossier on Donald Trump

An ex-KGB chief suspected of helping the former MI6 spy Christopher Steele to compile his dossier on Donald Trump may have been murdered by the Kremlin and his death covered up. it has been claimed.

Oleg Erovinkin, a former general in the KGB and its successor the FSB, was found dead in the back of his car in Moscow on Boxing Day in mysterious circumstances.

Erovinkin was a key aide to Igor Sechin, a former deputy prime minister and now head of Rosneft, the state-owned oil company, who is repeatedly named in the dossier.

Erovinkin has been described as a key liaison between Sechin and Russian president Vladimir Putin. Mr Steele writes in an intelligence report dated July 19, 2016, he has a source close to Sechin, who had disclosed alleged links between Mr Trump’s supporters and Moscow.

The death of Erovinkin has prompted speculation it is linked to Mr Steele’s explosive dossier, which was made public earlier this month.

The Russian state-run RIA Novosti news agency reported Erovinkin’s body was “found in a black Lexus… [and] a large-scale investigation has been commenced in the area. Erovinkin’s body was sent to the FSB morgue”.

No cause of death has been confirmed and the FSB continues to investigate. Media reports suggested his death was a result of foul play.

This is the Russia that Trump thinks he can get along with well.

From an interview with Sean Hannity on Fox News on Friday (as reported by Russian news service RT in Trump hopes to get along with Russia, ‘knock the hell out of ISIS together’:

“He called me after I won, but I haven’t had a discussion, but I understand we will be having a discussion soon.”

“I don’t know Putin, but if we can get along with Russia that’s a great thing, it’s good for Russia, it’s good for us, we go out together and knock the hell out of ISIS, because that’s a real sickness.”

“If you get along and if Russia is really helping us, why would anybody have sanctions if somebody’s doing some really great things?”

“I understand that they would like to meet, and that’s absolutely fine with me.”

Trump should meet with Putin, and the US should get along with Russia as well as they can.

And they should also treat Putin and Russia with a lot of caution. As are a couple of Republican senators.

Politico: Republicans warn Trump against lifting Russia sanctions

Two Republican senators on Friday warned President Donald Trump not to unilaterally ease sanctions against Russia — reminding him there’s bipartisan support for blocking such a move.

Arizona GOP Sen. John McCain and Ohio GOP Sen. Rob Portman urged Trump to rule out any rollback of punitive measures against Moscow hours after White House counselor Kellyanne Conway said lifting administration sanctions against Moscow is “under consideration.” The latest round of sanctions were imposed in response to U.S. intelligence officials’ conclusion that Russia interfered in the presidential election on Trump’s behalf.

“For the sake of America’s national security and that of our allies, I hope President Trump will put an end to this speculation” about easing sanctions, McCain said in a statement, “and reject such a reckless course. If he does not, I will work with my colleagues to codify sanctions against Russia into law.”

Portman urged fellow senators to “take pro-active steps” by converting administration sanctions into law, saying he is “deeply concerned” by reports that Trump may be preparing to ease U.S. financial restrictions on targeted Russian individuals and groups.

“To lift the sanctions on Russia for any reason other than a change in the behavior that led to those sanctions in the first place would send a dangerous message to a world already questioning the value of American leadership and the credibility of our commitments after eight years of Obama administration policies,” the Ohioan said in a statement.

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) and House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) also urged Trump to preserve existing sanctions against Russia, the former in an interview with POLITICO and the latter at a POLITICO-sponsored event.

Russia versus America goes back a long way. It is not something Trump will be able to change with a big black signature on an executive order.

UK’s former Moscow ambassador on Trump dossier

Outside of the current mess of US media and politics, where it’s difficult to know who is faking what, the dossier on Trump/Russia is getting attention also in the UK, which is also deeply involved.

And a former UK ambassador to Russia is giving some credence to the spy who put the dossier together.

The Guardian: UK’s former Moscow ambassador in spotlight over Trump dossier

Sir Andrew Wood says he rates judgment of report author Christopher Steele, who ‘would not make things up’

It could depend on whether Steele’s sources are making things up or not though.

Cool, unruffled and polite, Sir Andrew Wood is every inch the Foreign Office mandarin, and not a diplomat ordinarily associated with the kind of cold war-style alleged sex scandal currently embroiling the president-elect, Donald Trump.

Yet to his evident discomfort, Wood has found himself thrust front and centre of a story that has generated global interest and sent shudders around Washington and Whitehall on the eve of an inauguration that will be stained by the furore.

Wood, 77, knew and respected Christopher Steele, the ex-MI6 officer who wrote the 35-page dossier that contained lurid allegations about Trump. Wood also spoke to the Republican senator John McCain about the claims.

The two men had met at an “international security forum” in Canada last November – Wood addressed delegates about Ukraine, McCain about Syria. But it was their private discussion about Russia that set in train this week’s remarkable events.

Wood shared with the veteran senator what he knew about the dossier and warned that if any of its central claims were true, Trump could be blackmailed by Russia. McCain was worried enough to seek out a copy of the documents for himself – which he then passed to the FBI.

So Wood and McCain both thought it was serious enough to do something about it (but it should be noted that McCain has been a strong opponent of Trump since before this broke).

Wood, the UK ambassador to Moscow between 1995 and 2000, explained the sequence of events in various media interviews on Friday – using the kind of moderated language that no doubt helped persuade McCain, and then the heads of the US intelligence agencies, that both President Obama and the brash incumbent, needed to know what was being circulated.

At a point when the British government was hoping the story would go away, Wood lobbed the ball back into the billionaire’s court.

He told the Guardian the report’s key allegation – that Trump and Russia’s leadership were communicating via secret back channels during the presidential campaign – was eminently plausible.

“I think it has to be disproved, rather than anything else,” he said.

I don’t think it should be entirely that way, if at all. It would make a big difference to the story if some proof was produced.

Of Steele, who compiled the dossier last year at the behest of Trump’s political enemies, Wood told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme on Friday morning he knew him to be a “very competent professional operator … I do not think he would make things up. I don’t think he would necessarily always draw the correct judgment, but that’s not the same thing at all.”

Later, Wood was more generous in his assessment of Steele, telling the Guardian he “rated his judgment”.

“I take the report seriously. I don’t think it’s totally implausible. It’s conceivable he [Steele] has been duped or has exaggerated what his sources have been telling him. But I can’t really believe the dupe argument. Why would they [the Kremlin] bother?”

This is likely to help give the story some legs.

All of which suggests the debate about the dossier and its unsubstantiated claims are likely to rumble on in the US and the UK – which is likely to frustrate Downing Street as it tries to build bridges with a new, unpredictable administration.

It was GCHQ that tipped off the US about Russia hacking the Democratic Convention, and it was an MI6 officer whose work on Trump has caused the combustible businessman such embarrassment this week.

The UK is inextricably linked with the US and Russia over both the hacking and the dossier issues. And on the hacking:

Wood told the Guardian it was Trump’s own erratic behaviour on the campaign trail that had raised questions about his links with Russia. Trump originally denied that Putin had anything to do with hacking – only to say at his press conference earlier this week he thought Moscow was indeed guilty.

Confronted with serious hacking allegations, a presidential candidate would more usually call for a full inquiry, Wood said. Trump didn’t. “It colours the perception. Trump has encouraged the idea that there were meetings [between Trump aides and the Russian leadership],” Wood said, adding: “On the other hand, Trump says the first thing that comes into his head.”

If there were allegations of hacking being used by a major foreign power to try to influence a US election I would have thought that any responsible presidential candidate would have wanted it investigated properly.

Regardless of the facts or lack of facts Trump’s erratic behaviour and statements raise substantial doubts about his credibility.

The spy who wrote the Trump-Russia memos

Mother Jones has a story by David Corn on The Spy Who Wrote the Trump-Russia Memos: It Was “Hair-Raising” Stuff

Last fall, a week before the election, I broke the story that a former Western counterintelligence official had sent memos to the FBI with troubling allegations related to Donald Trump.

The memos noted that this spy’s sources had provided him with information indicating that Russian intelligence had mounted a yearslong operation to co-opt or cultivate Trump and had gathered secret compromising material on Trump. They also alleged that Trump and his inner circle had accepted a regular flow of intelligence from the Kremlin.

These memos caused a media and political firestorm this week when CNN reported that President Barack Obama and Trump had been told about their existence, as part of briefings on the intelligence community’s assessment that Russia hacked political targets during the 2016 campaign to help Trump become president.

For my story in October, I spoke with the former spy who wrote these memos, under the condition that I not name him or reveal his nationality or the spy service where he had worked for nearly two decades, mostly on Russian matters.

However the spy has been named and revealed.

  • Christopher Steele named as ex-MI6 agent behind ‘fake’ Trump sex dossier
  • He was a president of the Cambridge Union and ‘confirmed socialist’ as student 
  • Father-of-three was monitored by KGB in 1990s and his late wife also targeted
  • Steele is now an intelligence consultant who worked with FBI to bring down FIFA
  • His 35-page salacious file featured claims about Mr Trump’s links with Russia
  • Ex-spy has now fled his Surrey home ‘fearing for his life’ and may be abroad

From Daily Mail: Kremlin blames UK for Trump ‘sex storm’ as top Tory says relations with Russia are ‘about as bad as it could get’ without us being at WAR

Russia’s relations with Britain went into the deep freeze last night as Moscow blamed MI6 for the dossier of sordid claims about Donald Trump.

In an alarming Twitter post, the Russian embassy in London suggested the dossier’s alleged author, former British spy Christopher Steele, was still working for MI6 and ‘briefing both ways’ against Mr Trump and Moscow.

Mr Steele, who spied in Moscow in the 1990s, was last night in hiding after vanishing shortly before the damning dossier made headlines around the world. Neighbours said he had asked them to look after his three cats, and there were claims last night he was in an MI6 safe house.

So this is complex and has become a major story involving not just the US versus Russia, but the UK is also heavily involved. It’s likely to get messier.

Meanwhile the person at the centre of it all:

We are probably watching a train wreck unfold.