If This is Collusion, It Sure Was Inept

After putting together a timeline of events in the ongoing saga of alleged collusion or cooperation between the Trump campaign and Russia, this writer has come to some conclusions based on information in the public domain thus far.  Of course, investigators may have more information of which we are unaware.  But, based upon the information at hand, some things become rather obvious.  In this analysis, I am leaving aside issues like Bayrock and Trump’s SoHo project or his sale of a home in Florida to a Russian oligarch.  Those issues are better left to the conspiracy theorists on this site and a whole other subject altogether.

The first glaring thing one notices is ineptitude.  If there was collusion between Russia and the Trump campaign, the key people at the center of those allegations- Carter Page and George Papadopolous- were not very good at it.  They left a series of emails and other correspondence suggesting that members of the campaign, if not Trump himself, would meet either with Russian Foreign Ministry officials or Putin.  There is no doubt that Papadopolous was the primary culprit in this gambit given his updating the campaign on his meetings with intermediaries (the professor, Joseph Misfud) in London.

But we know two things about these efforts.  At a March 31, 2016 meeting of Trump’s foreign policy advisers, Papadopolous brings up the subject of a Trump-Putin meeting stating that he can facilitate the meeting using Misfud as an intermediary.  The idea is subsequently shot down by Jeff Sessions.   It was not until an April 26, 2016 meeting between Misfud and Papadopolous in London after Misfud had visited Moscow that Papadopolous even becomes aware that the Russians may have compromising information on Hillary Clinton that may be of interest to the Trump campaign.  The following day, he emails Corey Lewandowski about this alleged information.  Then some time in May, Papadopolous, in another example of ineptitude, drunkenly tells an Australian government official about his “dirt on Hillary” secret at a pub in Great Britain.

Of course, when talking of ineptitude, we need to mention that infamous meeting in Trump Tower on June 9, 2016.  Donald Trump, Jr.- no political expert- receives an email out of the blue from Rob Goldstone, a publicist for a Russian pop star whose father is an oligarch.  Goldstone says the elder Mr. Aragalov apparently has information about Clinton that can be used by the Trump campaign.  Trump, Jr. enthusiastically likes the idea.  He then calls the younger Aragalov on a cell phone and hopefully the NSA has a transcript of that call stored away somewhere.  A meeting is set up and on June 9, 2016, Trump, Jr., Jared Kushner and Paul Manafort meet with several people.  Among them are apparently Goldstone, a Russian lawyer named Natalia Veselnetskaya and interpreter, Rinat Akhmetshin.  Akhmetsin is also a registered lobbyist active in attempting to get the Magnitsky Act rescinded, as is Veselnetskaya.  In fact, previous to this meeting, she is in DC to witness a Congressional committee hearing on the Act.  Hence, everything indicates that both Veselnetskaya and Akhmetshin’s attendance at this “smoking gun” meeting is in regards to the Magnitsky Act.

We further know that Paul Manafort leaves this meeting early and that his notes of the meeting indicate that no dirt was delivered on Clinton and that the meeting was about the Magnitsky Act.  In short, it appears that Donald Trump, Jr. in his zeal to obtain dirt on Clinton was duped by Goldstone who, in turn, may have been duped by Aragalov.  Since no dirt was delivered and Veselnetskaya has stated she had no dirt and appeared surprised at the request, the purpose of the meeting was clearly discussion of the Magnitsky Act.  Some will assert the mere suggestion that the Trump campaign would solicit or entertain opposition research and compromising information on a political opponent from a Russian source are naive especially in light of the fact the Clinton campaign and DNC later sponsored opposition research on Trump based on Russian sources regardless of Christopher Steele’s credibility or nationality doing the reporting.  If not naive, then certainly hypocritical: Russian-sourced opposition research for me, but not for thee!

As bad as this is a sad attempt at “collusion” obviously being carried out by a low-level campaign adviser leaving a correspondence trail, there was more ineptitude elsewhere.  In September and November of 2015, the FBI informed DNC IT contractor Yared Tamene about possible hacking of their website.  Apparently nothing was discovered if they even did anything at all about it.  It was not until April 29, 2016 that the DNC noticed suspicious activity.  Given the previous warnings by the FBI, the DNC does not contact law enforcement, but they hire CrowdStrike, a cybersecurity firm who determines that their system was indeed hacked and that the hackers had Russian digital fingerprints.  This is announced two weeks after the suspicious activity is noticed.

Making matters worse, the FBI, despite their warnings to the DNC, never even examines the DNC server.  Instead, we are left with only the word of CrowdStrike that the system was hacked by Cozy Bear and Fancy Bear malware, the latter being linked previously to Russian intelligence services.  Compounding the problem, it is apparent, if reports are to be believed, Dutch intelligence had been tracking Russian hackers and had warned American law enforcement about potential hacking of US political campaigns.  They had been tracking similar Russian intelligence efforts throughout Europe.  We do not know how much emphasis or importance the FBI placed on this information, or if that was the impetus to notify the DNC in late 2015 about the possibility.  Still, if given that warning by law enforcement, one would think that the DNC would have taken protective measures.  We know, however, that emails were being hacked by Russian operatives from the DNC from at least September 2015 (some timelines put it earlier in 2015) to late April 2016.

Speaking of ineptitude, John Podesta was the Clinton campaign manager who held positions within the Bill Clinton White House and the Clinton Foundation.  In short, he is but one piece of the scum that associates with Clinton, but considered a knowledgeable political operative.  Considering that there were at least two warnings from the FBI to the DNC and, one assumes, the RNC and each individual campaign, John Podesta falls for an amateurish phishing hack on March 19, 2016.  He receives an email, alleging to be from Google, informing him that someone in Ukraine obtained his password and that he must change it.  Podesta then changes his password.

We later learned that someone from Clinton’s IT staff actually instructed Podesta to use the phishing link.  The password reset link is “myaccount.google.com-securitysettingpage.tk.”  The “.tk” in question is from Tokelau, a small island off New Zealand.  A simple look should have alerted the “brains” at Hillary for America.  Charles Delavan emailed Sara Latham, Podesta’s chief-of-staff, saying the email was legitimate.  Delavan close-copied the email to Michael Fisher, Clinton’s technical manager, who despite formerly being employed by Google, failed to realize this was a false Google account.

All these examples point to amateurish ineptitude on the part of all the actors.  If Papadopolous, Page and others were in cahoots with the Russians- and it appears they were attempting to set up some kind of meeting between Trump and Putin (not an illegal act, by the way), they did little to hide their tracks and instead left a trail of emails and correspondence.  In short, both were sad excuses for amateur “spooks.”

The DNC and definitely Podesta were inept for failing to heed the warnings of American law enforcement and the intelligence community.  If the Dutch had warned the FBI of potential hacking of US political campaigns, the FBI did little other than warn them of this potential…while it was occurring.  Furthermore, given the two previous warnings when it was discovered in late April 2016, the FBI allows the DNC to hire a private contractor (CrowdStrike) and never examines the server themselves, instead relying on the findings of that private, paid-for contractor.

Also, given all these meetings between Page and Papadopolous with Russians and intermediaries amid this atmosphere of warnings about cybersecurity, it is not until July, 2016 that the FBI begins to look into ties between the Trump campaign and Russian operatives.  From September 2015 until actually discovered in late April 2016, the FBI should have been aware of Russian meddling in the campaign either through working with the Trump campaign, or hacking into campaign websites.

Adding to the mystery of why the FBI opened an investigation in July 2016 is the report that British intelligence, in conjunction with the intelligence services of Poland, Estonia and Germany, had apparently alerted the FBI and American intelligence of intercepted contacts between Trump campaign operatives and known or suspected Russian agents in December, 2015.  If the FBI under James Comey was so adept at their work, why the seven month wait?  Were they building up a case, or were they just asleep at the wheel?  Either way, it seems that a whole lot of conjecture in 2018 could have been cleared up much earlier.  Of course, there is the possibility that the FBI concluded in 2015 to July 2016 that there was no collusion or cooperation.

The whole scenario is one of massive bungling.  That is bungling from the two would-be ass-kissing spooks, Carter Page and George Papadopolous.  That is bungling by the DNC, the Clinton campaign and John Podesta regarding their internet server security.  It is bungling by the FBI in possibly not heeding the warnings of foreign intelligence, or going through the motions.  Most egregious is the fact they allowed a private contractor to conclude what law enforcement should have concluded.

In short, there is more here to be concerned about other than alleged collusion.  The DNC, Podesta and Hillary for America can be sort of excused for their ineptitude.  However, given everything we know now, it makes the FBI under Comey look like the Keystone cops as regards this issue.