The BBC's Paul Wood writes today about the infamous "dossier" that claims a substantial connection between Russian officials and the Trump campaign team:
The BBC has learned that US officials "verified" a key claim in a report about Kremlin involvement in Donald Trump's election — that a Russian diplomat in Washington was in fact a spy.
....At one point [the dossier says]: "A leading Russian diplomat, Mikhail KULAGIN, had been withdrawn from Washington at short notice because Moscow feared his heavy involvement in the US presidential election operation... would be exposed in the media there."...Sources I know and trust have told me the US government identified Kalugin as a spy while he was still at the embassy.
....I understand — from former officials — that from 2013-16, Steele gave the US government extensive information on Russia and Ukraine....One former senior official who saw these reports told me: "It was found to be of value by the people whose job it was to look at Russia every day"....Another who dealt with this material in government said: "Sometimes he would get spun by somebody. [But] it was always 80% there."...In light of his earlier work, the US intelligence community saw him as "credible" (their highest praise).
....Members of the Obama administration believe, based on analysis they saw from the intelligence community, that the information exchange claimed by Steele continued into the election.
"This is a three-headed operation," said one former official, setting out the case, based on the intelligence: Firstly, hackers steal damaging emails from senior Democrats. Secondly, the stories based on this hacked information appear on Twitter and Facebook, posted by thousands of automated "bots", then on Russia's English-language outlets, RT and Sputnik, then right-wing US "news" sites such as Infowars and Breitbart, then Fox and the mainstream media. Thirdly, Russia downloads the online voter rolls.
The voter rolls are said to fit into this because of "microtargeting". Using email, Facebook and Twitter, political advertising can be tailored very precisely: individual messaging for individual voters....This would take co-operation with the Trump campaign, it is claimed.
Hmmm. Thousands of bots? Apparently so:
On Wednesday the Washington Post published a story about "Source D" in the dossier:
In June, a Belarusan American businessman who goes by the name Sergei Millian shared some tantalizing claims about Donald Trump....The allegations by Millian — whose role was first reported by the Wall Street Journal and has been confirmed by The Washington Post — were central to the dossier compiled by the former spy, Christopher Steele. While the dossier has not been verified and its claims have been denied by Trump, Steele’s document said that Millian’s assertions had been corroborated by other sources, including in the Russian government and former intelligence sources.
The most explosive allegation that the dossier says originally came from Millian is the claim that Trump had hired prostitutes at the Moscow Ritz-Carlton and that the Kremlin has kept evidence of the encounter.
Nobody knows for sure if Millian is genuinely plugged in at high levels, or if he's just a fast-talking huckster. But put all this together and it's easy to see why the Trump-Russia story won't go away. The FBI believes Steele to be credible. In the cases where it's been possible to check out the allegations in the dossier, they've turned out to be true. Other intelligence corroborates much of the alleged Russian activity. And Millian's claims are genuinely explosive.
This isn't going away anytime soon.