This is going to be a big story in the following days if journalists can figure out a way to relay the information to the public in a simple, easy-to-digest manner that will stick, because it’s complicated. Because it sounds like an insane conspiracy theory. Because it sounds like a storyline on Scandal or 24.
The evidence coming out right now, however, strongly suggests some sort of real connection between Donald Trump — or those in his campaign — and the Russian government. I will do my best to condense it into bullet points. I suggest for those who are more interested that you read the articles in their entirety from the sources.
— The biggest bomb comes from Mother Jones, the publication that four years ago broke the Mitt Romney 47 percent story. David Corn has spoken with a veteran spy — and has done a lot of fact checking and source verifying — and learned that — according to the spy — there are significant ties between Donald Trump and the Russian government. In fact, Russia has been literally using Donald Trump for the last five years in an effort to disrupt the American electoral process. This spy turned his information over to the FBI.
— Here’s the key paragraph in the report, a memo from the former spy — a 20-year veteran working on Russian intelligence matters — that was provided to the FBI:
“Russian regime has been cultivating, supporting and assisting TRUMP for at least 5 years. Aim, endorsed by PUTIN, has been to encourage splits and divisions in western alliance.” It maintained that Trump “and his inner circle have accepted a regular flow of intelligence from the Kremlin, including on his Democratic and other political rivals.” It claimed that Russian intelligence had “compromised” Trump during his visits to Moscow and could “blackmail him.” It also reported that Russian intelligence had compiled a dossier on Hillary Clinton based on “bugged conversations she had on various visits to Russia and intercepted phone calls.”
— The FBI, in August, requested more information from the spy, and the FBI and the spy have been working together since. “It’s quite clear there was or is a pretty substantial inquiry going on,” the spy told Mother Jones.
— Separately, Slate is reported on a story that the NYTimes is also working on. It’s a very long, very dry, and very boring report, but the take home is this: A “community of malware hunters” trying to determine the source of the DNC hack — and trying to determine if the hackers were also hacking into Donald Trump’s campaign — made an unexpected discovery. There was a server within the Trump campaign whose only function, it seems, was to communicate with Alfa Bank, a bank with close ties to Putin but that also works in the West to help further the financial interests of Russia.
— There are possible alternative explanations, but the most likely seems to be that Trump’s server was communicating with this Russian server, and communications spiked during big political moments (such as the conventions). Moreover, when the NYTimes reached out to Alfa to question why its servers were communicating with a Trump server, the Trump server “seemed to suddenly stop working.” Four days later, a new server was set up within the Trump campaign to communicate with the exact same Alfa servers.
— OK, so the veteran spy report sounds insane. The report suggesting that a Trump server is communicating exclusively with a Russian bank sounds also insane. Put the two separate stories together, however, and it starts to sounds less insane.
Combine those two well-resourced stories from well-respected media outlets with few other key pieces of context: Trump’s former campaign manager, Paul Manafort, has significant ties with a pro-Russian Ukrainian organization. Manafort resigned after this was revealed. Moreover, the Russians hacked only the DNC. Additionally, an aide to Donald Trump, Roger Stone, admits that he has had back-channel communications with Wikileaks founder Julian Assange about the Russian email hacks.
Add to that Trump’s refusal to say anything negative about Russia or Putin — even though those in his own party have done so, including his vice president — and it all starts to sound eerily plausible that Donald Trump is an actual puppet for the Russian government.
— However, after the Slate article and the Mother Jones article came out, another from the NYTimes surfaced, reporting that the FBI has indeed been pursuing the leads raised by both the veteran spy and the possible connections between the Trump campaign and the Alfa bank. The FBI, however, has not yet found any direct links between Russia and Trump.
However, they are continuing to pursue their investigation of Donald Trump’s former campaign manager Paul Manafort and his connection to Russian and Ukrainian oligarchs.