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.

Clapper versus Trump on dossier leak

After previously implicating US intelligence in the leaking of a dossier Donald Trump has now claimed that Director of National Intelligence James Clapper denounced “the false and fictitious report that was illegally circulated”.

However in ‘a rare statement’ Clapper said that “the IC has not made any judgment that the information in this document is reliable”.

The dossier alleges Russia has compromising information of a sexual and financial nature, that could be used to blackmail Donald Trump has been in circulation for several months. Senator Harry Reid alluded to it before the election.

The reports in the dossier are dated from 20 June to 20 October last year.

Senator John McCain has admitted he passed the dossier to the FBI last month.

A lot of media in the US and in the UK say they have seen the dossier.

On Tuesday BuzzFeed published the documents, which it said were “unverified and potentially unverifiable”

CNN also reported on Tuesday that the FBI was investigating the credibility of the documents but also said that the intelligence chiefs had included a summary of the material in a secret briefing on Russian interference in the election given last week to Obama and  Trump.

Trump has accused CNN of publishing ‘fake news’, but they reported on the existence of the document and that intelligence agencies had it, not the contents, so what the reported was factual.

In yesterday’s media conference Trump also speculated that the dossier had been leaked by intelligence officials. Following this Clapper  contacted Trump.

Fox News: Intel chief calls Trump to disavow leaks

The nation’s top intel chief called President-elect Donald Trump Wednesday to personally deny leaking to the media a dubious dossier of allegations about sensitive information the Russians supposedly had about him.

Trump confirmed Thursday that Director of National Intelligence James Clapper spoke to him by phone, apparently sometime after a press conference in which Trump lashed out at media outlets, including Buzzfeed and CNN, that ran with the story and speculated it was leaked by federal officials.

On Wednesday, Clapper released a rare statement addressing rising tensions between spy agency chiefs and Trump, who believes the intel community has become politicized and is working to undermine him. He also acknowledged contacting Trump directly to express “profound dismay” about the leaks to CNN and Buzzfeed — the latter of which published the unverified allegations in full.

“I emphasized that this document is not a U.S. Intelligence Community product and that I do not believe the leaks came from within the IC,” Clapper said. “The IC has not made any judgment that the information in this document is reliable, and we did not rely upon it in any way for our conclusions.”

Clapper makes it clear in his statement the Intelligence Community has made no judgement on the veracity of the allegations.

But Trump tweeted:

That is contrary to what Clapper said in his statement. There was no denouncement of the report, and not even an implication by Clapper that it was false or fictitious.

It is ironic that Trump accuses others of publishing false or fake news when he continues to be loose with the truth himself.