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Was President Trump Reckless In Insisting On Meeting A Former Russian
KGB Agent Alone?

July 22, 2018

The Trump one-on-one meeting with Putin. Reckless behavior?
Chronicle staff

(INTERNATIONAL) – When President Donald Trump insisted on meeting alone with a former Russian KGB officer – who is now the President of the Russian Federation - most experienced US intelligence experts knew how reckless and dangerous such an endeavor was.

But the average American, not having training in such matters, probably did not know that their President was engaging in a meeting fraught with dangerous possibilities and one that the US Central Intelligence Agency, for example, would never allow its own officials to engage in.

James Risen, an author and Pulitzer Prize winning reporter from his days at the New York Times wrote an interesting piece in The Intercept last week about the Trump-Putin one-on-one, nobody-else-allowed-in-the-room meeting in Helsinki.

During the Cold War years of the 1980’s the CIA and the Russian KGB had a “secret channel” of communication open between the two agencies to prevent “problems” from arising and as it happened there were a series of secret meetings held between top CIA and KGB officials in Europe.

Some of those meetings took place in Helsinki, where Donald Trump met with Vladimir Putin on Monday July 16. They were referred to as the Gavrilov meetings, after a 19th century Russian poet. But as Risen writes in his Intercept report:

“But one of the key differences between between the Gavrilov channel and the Trump-Putin meeting was that the CIA always insisted on having at least two American officers present – no one from the CIA could meet the KGB alone. That guaranteed that no American could hand over secrets to the KGB without at least one other American knowing about it; it also insured that no American would come under unfair suspicion of being a KGB spy simply by meeting with the Russians alone.

Trump, on the other hand, insisted on meeting Putin without any of his aides present. At a time when there is a federal investigation underway into whether his campaign colluded with the Russians to win the 2016 election, Trump’s decision to meet Putin alone was at best reckless. His many critics will take it as further evidence that he really is a KGB agent.

Both leaders’ comments to reporters after the meeting only reinforced the growing belief among many Americans that Trump is in Putin’s pocket. Trump said that Putin had denied to him that Russia had meddled in the 2016 election — and that was good enough for Trump.”

Risen then notes that “just hours after Trump and Putin’s lovefest ended,” the Justice Department announced it had charged a Russian woman living in America with acting as an unregistered foreign agent of the Russian Federation.

She is accused of looking to cozy up to American politicians and the NRA (National Rifle Association) to try and set up a “back channel” means of a communication "between influential Americans and representatives of the Russian government. “

And that charge against Maria Butina followed indictments against Russian individuals and Russian entities in the Trump-Russia inquiry.

In February, 13 Russians and three entities were indicted for trying to interfere in the 2016 election) and on Friday July 13, Mueller’s office indicted 12 Russian intelligence officers for conspiring to conduct cyber attacks against the Democratic Party during the 2016 election.

A new angle to the Trump-Russia investigation

In a new piece published yesterday in The Intercept, Risen says what has been missing of late in the “media narrative” of Butina’s indictment is the “ominous significance” of the charges against her.

That significance is this: the Butina case “is almost certainly the opening move in a brand new front in the Trump-Russia investigation.” Risen writes that Butina is just a minor player in what looks to be a “broader ongoing inquiry into the relationships between Russia, conservative American organizations like the National Rifle Association, and Donald Trump’s presidential campaign.”

Risen says for months federal investigators have been investigating whether the NRA (or other conservative organizations) “were used” by the Russian government or rich Russian fat cats to funnel money into to the Trump 2016 presidential campaign.

Some items from that new Risen piece:

~ Investigators working with special counsel Robert Mueller have repeatedly questioned Russian oligarchs traveling to the US about whether they made cash donations directly or indirectly to Trump’s campaign or his inauguration (CNN reported that earlier this year).

~ Butina got the attention of the feds mainly because of her connections “to this shadowy intersection of powerful Russians and right-wing Americans.”

~ What really made her a target of Mueller’s probe was her work for the Russian Alexander Torshin – a close political ally of Russian President Vladimir Putin.

~ Torshin is the big Russian fish (not Butina) whose involvement with the NRA and American conservatives “brings the Trump-Russia case closer to Russian organized crime and Putin.” Torshin is currently a top official at the Russian central bank. But he is also a former Russian senator and has been identified by Spanish authorities “as the “godfather” of Taganskaya, a Russian organized crime group.” Police in Spain wanted to arrest Torshin five years ago for “a scheme to launder money through the purchase of hotels in Mallorca.”

~ The bust of Torshin fell through when Torshin was apparently warned by Russian authorities not to travel to Spain (according to a report by the Spnaish newspaper El País).

~ And this gem from Risen’s report: “Shockingly, Torshin was able to travel to the United States and develop close and long-standing relationships with prominent figures in the American conservative movement for years after Spain’s failed attempt to catch and arrest him.”

The BBC has put together this ‘tool kit’ to help readers understand the ongoing Trump-Putin story in context as the BBC’s Roland Hughes acknowledges, “It’s complicated. We know, we've been trying to follow it all as well.”

Update 7/22/18: New details released on FBI probe into Trump Foreign Policy aide. On Saturday night the FBI released - following Freedom of Information requests by several US organizations - 412 heavily redacted pages of material including surveillance applications, their renewals and warrants surrounding an investigation into one of Donald Trump's ex-foreign policy aides, Page Carter.

One document shows,“The FBI believes that Page has been collaborating and conspiring with the Russian government.” That statement, from the October 2016 FBI application to the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court, described by the BBC as,“One of the most secretive institutions in the US which has the power to authorize wiretaps and surveillance of suspected foreign spies.”

Page’s alleged relationships with Russian intelligence officials led to him being put under FBI surveillance, according to the document which say the FBI believes that the Russian government's efforts are being co-ordinated with Page and perhaps other individuals associated with Mr Trump's presidential campaign.

Page told CNN that documents describing him as adviser to the Russian government was "way over the top" and that, "I've never been an agent of a foreign power by any stretch of the imagination. You talk about misleading the courts, it's just so misleading. It's literally a complete joke."

More here .

And finally this interesting item from Think Progress: “Neo-Confederates reach out to their ‘Russian friends’ in new project: Once again, racist secessionists are looking to Moscow for succor”



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