- The Washington Times - Sunday, August 30, 2020

Assertions by top Obama administration officials that President Trump is a Moscow intelligence asset have not been supported by a string of government investigations begun in July 2016, an analysis shows.

The probes include the March 2019 report from special counsel Robert Mueller; the December 2019 report from the Justice Department inspector general; the 2018 Republican majority reports from the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence, the House Judiciary Committee, the House Oversight and Reform Committee, the Senate Judiciary Committee, the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee; and the Aug. 18 report from the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence.

Not one finding, document or transcript says Mr. Trump is a Russian intelligence asset, a Washington Times analysis shows.

President Obama’s most senior intelligence leaders made that claim on their paid cable news appearances.

Former FBI Deputy Director Andrew McCabe, who was fired after a Justice Department report said he lied to investigators about a news leak, also stoked the espionage fires.

Promoting his memoir in February 2019, Mr. McCabe disclosed on CBS’s “60 Minutes” that he had taken the enormous step of opening a counterintelligence investigation in May 2017 into Mr. Trump specifically. The reason: The president had fired James B. Comey as FBI director and appeared to want to shut down the Russia probe.

“Why would a president of the United States do that?” Mr. McCabe said. “So all those same sorts of facts cause us to wonder: Is there an inappropriate relationship, a connection between this president and our most fearsome enemy, the government of Russia?”

The next month, Mr. Mueller released the report on his 22-month investigation into Mr. Trump and his allies. The special counsel concluded that he did not establish that a Trump-Moscow election conspiracy existed.

There are other claimants.

Andrew Weissmann, Mr. Mueller’s top prosecutor, said on MSNBC that Mr. Trump talked on an open line with his ambassador in Europe because he wanted Russian President Vladimir Putin to listen in.

Christopher Steele, author of the anti-Trump dossier financed by Democrats, made a series of espionage claims, such as the president worked with the Kremlin for years as an informant.

The Washington Times asked Daniel Hoffman, a former CIA station chief, to assess the Trump/spy allegations.

He said: “The Trump campaign made a series of mistakes in its dealings with Russia, but some Obama administration officials went overboard by starting with the premise Mr. Trump was an agent of the Russian government. They should have collected and analyzed the facts without any predisposed bias, especially in regards to their use of the now fully debunked Steele dossier.

“Mr. Trump’s campaign manager, Paul Manafort, regularly communicated with his office manager in Ukraine, Konstantin Kilimnik, whom the FBI has assessed is linked to Russian military intelligence,” Mr. Hoffman said. “Mr. Manafort, a political consultant, secretly slipped Mr. Kilimnik internal polling data to give to potential Russia-friendly clients in Ukraine. Kilimnik was likely trying to establish a relationship whereby he would task Manafort for increasingly valuable and protected information after getting Manafort socialized with a seemingly innocuous request for not-so-secret polling data.

“Democrats have gone way too far in accusing Trump of things he didn’t do. But look at some of the things the campaign did. Start with the lack of vetting of Manafort, who was engaged in illegal business and was extraordinarily vulnerable based on his past association with Russia. He was working on behalf of pro-Putin Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovych. Manafort never should have been chosen as campaign chairman,” the former CIA station chief told The Times.

“The Trump campaign gave the impression of being interested in using Russia’s interference for their own benefit. Trump was not an agent of Putin, and there is no evidence of collusion. But the infamous June 2016 Trump Tower meeting, which the Trump team attended expecting to receive damning information on Secretary Clinton they knew was coming from the Russian government, understandably raised suspicion. The Senate report confirmed FSB-connected lawyer Natalia Veselnitskaya never produced this information and instead lobbied on behalf of lifting the Magnitsky Act sanctions,” Mr. Hoffman said.

Today, it is part of the public record that scores of FBI agents and congressional investigators have scrutinized the Trump campaign and the president. The bureau’s mandate of hunting down “any link” between Mr. Trump and Moscow provided a wide berth to look at contacts, no matter how casual.

The Senate intelligence committee’s fifth and final Trump-Russia report on Aug. 18 focused on counterintelligence threats. It was not all that kind to Mr. Trump, but it cited no evidence that he was a spy.

Through more than 900 pages, the report leaves no contact unexamined. It describes a number of Trump associates’ contacts with Russians or people linked to Russia.

One section chronicles a trip Mr. Trump, then a renowned businessman selling a golden brand, made to Moscow 25 years ago to look at possible real estate development sites. Senate investigators took particular interest in whether he had a sexual relationship with a Russian woman.

As it discusses the woman, the final report quotes hearsay, sometimes double hearsay, and relies on innuendo as well as a few photographs from social gatherings.

Mr. Trump attended a party in a room called “The Library” at the Hotel Baltschug Kempinski. His guide was David Geovanis, a U.S. developer and investor who holds Russian citizenship.

The Senate report said: “Trump may have begun a brief relationship with a Russian woman named [redacted]. Theodore Liebman, an architect who lived in Moscow and New York in the 1990s, and who traveled to Russia with Trump and the other investors from the Brooke Group, attended the event. According to Liebman, shortly before the party Geovanis had a chance encounter with [redacted] who Geovanis knew, and Geovanis invited her to the Brooke Group party.”

The Senate committee interviewed a Geovanis friend, photographer Robert Curran, who provided hearsay testimony: “Curran told the committee that, based on what Geovanis told him, ‘I think [Mr. Trump] and [redacted] might have had a brief romantic relationship,’ and that ‘[Mr. Geovanis] said then that he saw them before he left and then he saw them again together. … I’m not sure if it was the next day or subsequent day or whatever. I do remember he said that he saw them together.”

The woman apparently gave a media interview in 2007. The report quotes her: “With some I was briefly met by chance, while others there was a much longer relationship due to mutual affection. For example, Trump is a person who I like very much. I cannot call him a friend, because we do not call up and do not meet daily, but perhaps we would live in the same city (I am in New York or he would be in Los Angeles), we would communicate more closely. Let’s just say we are on a friendly footing.”

Peter O’Brien, former executive with Russia’s state-run Rosneft petroleum-gas firm, said Mr. Geovanis attended a holiday party in 2015 and told a Trump story.

Mr. O’Brien, saying his recollection was vague, told the committee: “[Mr. Geovanis] told a little bit about how [Mr. Trump] had spent time going around to some different meetings in Moscow to talk about potential real estate deals. And the culmination of the story was that [Mr. Trump] had a meeting in the Moscow mayor’s office and he showed up with two beautiful young women on his arm, and people thought that was kind of strange. A, that he was with them, and B, that he hadn’t just left them wherever he met them.”

Regardless of Mr. Trump’s possible love life in Moscow, the committee’s final report findings are devoid of evidence that the president is a Russian spy, informant or intelligence asset.

Same for the Mueller report, which had a cast of 20 FBI agents and 18 prosecutors and the full cooperation of key intelligence agencies such as the CIA and the National Security Agency, which intercepts and files communications.

Mr. Trump visited Moscow three times to look at sites: in 1987, 1996 and 2013, when he also staged the Miss Universe pageant. For someone whose critics say is wedded to the Kremlin and Mr. Putin, Mr. Trump has never built any project in Russia.

When he made his last attempt at a Trump hotel from afar, in 2015 and 2016, the Trump Organization was so unconnected with the Kremlin that then-attorney Michael Cohen had to resort to using a generic email address.

Postelection, when Mr. Putin asked oligarch Petr Aven to contact the Trump transition team, the Alfa Bank partner and frequent U.S. visitor did not know any Trump people, according to the Mueller report.

Here is the spy picture painted by Mr. Trump’s detractors.

• James R. Clapper, former director of national intelligence, said in December 2017 that Mr. Trump is a Russian intelligence asset.

“I think this past weekend is illustrative of what a great case officer Vladimir Putin is,” Mr. Clapper said. “He knows how to handle an asset, and that’s what he’s doing with the president. … You have to remember Putin’s background. He’s a KGB officer. That’s what they do. They recruit assets. And I think some of that experience and instincts of Putin has come into play here in his managing of a pretty important account for him, if I could use that term, with our president.”

Mr. Clapper said in February 2019 on CNN that Mr. Putin treats the president as an intelligence asset.

“The strange thing, I think, that’s bothered a lot of people, both in and out of the intelligence community, is this strange personal deference to Putin by the president,” Mr. Clapper said. “I’ve speculated in the past that the way Putin behaves is to treat President Trump as an asset.

“Putin’s background as a trained, experienced KGB agent and how he would approach somebody that he is trying to co-opt or influence or gain leverage over, and in this case, you know, appeal to ego.”

• John O. Brennan, Mr. Obama’s CIA director and 2008 campaign adviser, also has asserted that Mr. Trump is in an illegal relationship with Mr. Putin.

When the Trump administration limited some briefings on Russia because of Democrats’ leaks to the press, Mr. Brennan tweeted, “We are now in a full-blown national security crisis. By trying to prevent the flow of intelligence to Congress, Trump is abetting a Russian covert operation to keep him in office for Moscow’s interests, not America’s.”

He said it was “nothing short of treason” when Mr. Trump mistakenly exonerated Mr. Putin of election interference after a meeting in Helsinki. Back in Washington, Mr. Trump walked back the remark.

After Mr. Trump congratulated Mr. Putin on reelection in 2018, Mr. Brennan said on MSNBC, “I think he’s afraid of the president of Russia. I think one can speculate as to why: that the Russians may have something on him personally that they could always roll out and make his life more difficult.”

Mr. Brennan predicted that Mr. Mueller would charge a larger number of Trump aides with crimes of election interference. When the special counsel did not, Mr. Brennan said he must have been misinformed.

• Dossier creator Mr. Steele spun more than a dozen felony allegations against Mr. Trump and his aides. They included the spying claim.

“Source close to TRUMP campaign however confirms regular exchange with Kremlin has existed for at least 8 years, including intelligence fed back to Russia on oligarchs’ activities in US,” Mr. Steele said of Mr. Trump in a dossier memo.

Mr. Steele also wrote: “In terms of established operational liaison between the TRUMP team and the Kremlin, the emigre confirmed that an intelligence exchange had been running between them for at least 8 years. Within this context PUTIN’s priority requirement had been for intelligence on the activities, business and otherwise in the US of leading Russian oligarchs and their families. TRUMP and his associates duly had obtained and supplied the Kremlin with this information.”

Today, U.S. investigations have revealed the dossier to be full of falsehoods. No report suggests that Mr. Trump was feeding the Kremlin intelligence, much less for eight years.

• Rowan Scarborough can be reached at rscarborough@washingtontimes.com.

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