October 4, 2021 – More on Alfa Bank lawsuit; Steele; Nuland; Kavalec notes; Stephen Laycock; and the Russiagate fabrications in Belton’s book

In Email/Dossier Investigations, Independent Researchers, John Helmer by Katie Weddington

(…) In a report commissioned by Alfa Bank and released by the Ankura Consulting Group in April 2020, the technical methods were exposed by which Sussmann and his Democratic National Committee clients had fabricated the evidence of the Russian “channel” to Trump. For the full Anura report, click to read.

In reporting this and the Sussmann indictment last month, it is now clear in retrospect that [Catherine] Belton was on the end of the chain of lying which started with Sussmann and Steele.  Sussmann first provided the Alfa channel fabrication to Steele on July 29, 2016; Steele admitted this to a lawyer for Alfa in London in March 2017.  Sussmann repeated the lie to the FBI on September 29, 2016. Steele then repeated it at the State Department on October 11, 2016. Hillary Clinton repeated it in a public tweet on November 1, 2016.  Steele has admitted some of the journalist names to whom he had repeated the Alfa lie in this UK court record; he has not admitted what he told Belton.

Belton did not admit her Alfa fabrications to HarperCollins in March of 2021, when the publisher issued a statement claiming the book was “an authoritative, important and conscientiously sourced work.”  Four months later, on July 28The Bookseller printed a fresh statement from HarperCollins repeating the same endorsement and adding: “HarperCollins will robustly defend this acclaimed and groundbreaking book and the right to report on matters of considerable public interest.”  Hours later that day in court, the publisher contradicted itself and withdrew its defence of Belton’s Alfa claims.

To this day, the Financial Times website version of Belton’s November 1, 2016, story of the “second channel” shows no correction. Steele’s allegations at the State Department Belton repeated as innuendo: “questions are mounting over whether Mr Millian was one of a number of people who could have acted as intermediaries to build ties between Moscow and Mr Trump.”

In fact, the questions which started mounting immediately after Steele had met Nuland and Kavalec were immediately relayed to the FBI with warnings from both of them that they suspected Steele of faking.

By May 2019, a year before Belton’s book was due to be published, the first reports were surfacing in the Washington press revealing that Nuland and Kavalec had suspected Steele. Belton then erased Steele from the book as her source for the allegations she had already printed in the Financial Times on Millian’s Florida real estate schemes.

But into the book Belton kept up the same allegation, turning the innuendo into fact with a change of source: “Money then flowed into real estate in Miami, New York and London,” Belton alleged, ascribing this to Jack Blum, whom she reported as “a Washington lawyer specialising in white-collar financial crime”.  Blum is also the treasurer of an anti-Russia think tank in Washington funded in part by George Soros.  “Real estate was exempt from any kind of reporting of suspicious activity,” Belton says she was told at an “author interview with Blum, December 2018. Alan Garten, general counsel for the Trump Organization, did not respond to a request for comment.”

In Belton’s book, she continued to parrot Steele. “In total,” she wrote, “more than $98.4 million worth of property in south Florida was bought by Russians in seven Trump-branded luxury towers.”  Kavalec’s notes reveal that Steele had told Nuland “$98M in 7 towers”.

Kavalec’s records reveal that at the October 11, 2016, meeting with Nuland, Steele spent most of his time promoting his claim that the Millian “channel” and the “émigré network” were responsible for “domestic espionage”. Money to pay for this, he claimed, came from a Russian state “pension fund Miami consulate payments”. Steele also claimed Millian and others used real estate transactions because there was “no due diligence”. He named two of the alleged fronts as “Global Group” and “Florida Best Realty – Marat Zitsman – located in Trump Towers. 12s [dozens] of Russians.”

Source: this and also as a typed transcript, dated May 19, 2019.  This version reports Belton’s first name as “Chasenual[sp?]! and “meeting” as “wre[?]ly” Another source, with commentary, can be read here. The reference to “Winer” above Belton’s name identifies Jonathan Winer, a State Department official at the time who was also part of the Russian allegation chain between Sussman, Steele, and Belton. In her book, Belton reports interviewing Winer in December 2018.  Winer is reportedly the source for the claim of “an alliance of the KGB working with organised crime.” For more on Winer’s role as go-between Steele and Nuland, read this.

Kavalec’s subsequent reporting to the FBI casts doubt on Steele’s truthfulness and motive.  In her written report to Nuland and the FBI,  Kavalec wrote: “It is important to note that there is no Russian consulate in Miami.” Nuland also issued a warning to cut off contact with Steele because “this is about U.S. politics, and not the work of — not the business of the State Department, and certainly not the business of a career employee who is subject to the Hatch Act.”  For more details, click to read.

FBI officials have confirmed that Kavelec sent the FBI a report of these concerns by email; she also spoke directly to Stephen Laycock, then the FBI’s section chief for Russian and Eurasian counter-intelligence and later one of the bureau’s top executives as assistant director for intelligence. In the pre-election period Laycock was also a member of the inter-agency “Russian Malign Influence Group”, together with Kavalec and Justice Department officials.  Laycock was also aware that FBI agents reporting to him had met in July in Rome with Steele.

The email to Laycock from Kavalec arrived on October 13, eight days before the FBI swore to the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court that it had no negative information on Steele’s credibility; the FBI used his anti-Trump dossier to secure secret surveillance warrants to investigate Trump’s possible ties to Moscow. The publicly disclosed version of Kavalec’s email to Laycock has been heavily redacted on the grounds of national security. 

The manipulation of some agents and groups inside the FBI was under investigation by others at the FBI in the days leading up to the presidential election. This resulted in the FBI sacking Steele as a confidential source on November 1, 2016.

On the same day, Belton repeated in the Financial Times word for word what Steele had told her about the Millian “channel” and “espionage network”.

By then Laycock was about to move up from the Russian section of the Agency’s counter-intelligence division to take charge of counter-intelligence at the FBI’s Washington field office.    The following year he was promoted again, this time to assistant director of the intelligence directorate.  He continued at the top of the Bureau until his retirement in 2020 when he went to work for the computer security firm KACE, a unit of Dell, and SCL Risk Management.   SCL are Laycock’s name initials; the firm is registered at his home address in Burke, Virginia.

Laycock prospered during the Russiagate affair; looking back, he has told others “that of all the characteristics of a successful leader that come to mind…there is one word that I think about a lot in looking back on my FBI career regarding leadership roles and success, and that is to be Thankful…being thankful and appreciating opportunity is what, again in my opinion, got me to where I ended in my incredible FBI career.”

Forgetful was the term Laycock relied on when he was interviewed under oath at the Senate Judiciary Committee on June 15, 2020.   He was repeatedly asked what he knew of Steele and his claims about Russian operations in the US. According to Laycock, he had “heard the name before [October 2016]”. Asked whether he or his staff had checked Steele’s claims Laycock testified he was “not aware”, “I don’t know”, “I can’t remember”. Asked what Kavalec had told him about Steele after the October 11 meeting with Nuland, Laycock said: “I don’t remember exactly what she said.”

Kathleen Kavalec (l) of the State Department’s Russia desk and Bureau of European and Eurasian Affairs and Stephen Laycock (r) head of Russian counter-intelligence at the FBI. (Credit: public domain)

Asked whether Steele’s credibility had been called into question, Laycock told the Senate investigation: “I don’t recall that.” Asked again if he was present at meetings of his staff when Steele’s credibility had been examined, Laycock said: “I don’t recall any.” Had there been any verification of Steele’s allegations? “I don’t recall specifically any steps. It was more just status updates of kind of where things were.”

In her book Belton says that in July 2019 she interviewed Frank Montoya, head of the FBI’s counter-intelligence division between 2012 and 2014, before he was reassigned to Seattle. He then retired and went to work for StrikeForce Technologies — https://strikesource.com/team-member/frank-montoya-jr/ StrikeForce is one of the promoters of the Russia hacking allegations which Steele had started with Nuland.

STRIKE FORCE TECHNOLOGIES – RUSSIAGATE PLOT WAS SHARE PRICE BOOSTER FROM ELECTION DAY 2016 TO THE TRUMP-PUTIN MEETING IN JULY 2018

StrikeForce remains very small, with a current market capitalization of $70 million. Source: https://markets.ft.com/ CrowdStrike, the company which initially reported the allegation of Russian hacking of the DNC, did not list on the Nasdaq exchange until 2019. Its share price has moved steadily upwards; its current market cap is $57 billion. Shawn Henry, the second ranked executive at CrowdStrike, is an ex-FBI agent.

The only American reporter to have identified Belton’s reporting in the Financial Times as tied to Steele and the Sussmann plot is Matt Taibbi. He reported on September 22  “a long list of press figures “from [Brian] Stelter’s own CNN colleague and shameless intelligence community spokesclown Natasha Bertrand, to reporters from The New Yorker, Time, MSNBC, Fortune, the Financial Times, and especially Slate and The Atlantic — were witting or unwitting pawns in a scheme to sell the public on a transparently moronic hoax, i.e. that Donald Trump’s campaign was communicating mysterious digital treason to Russia’s Alfa Bank via a secret computer server.” Taibbi did not mention Belton by name.

It is not yet clear if FBI agents met with Belton at the time of her Millian story, or later. Belton refuses to respond to a request to confirm meetings she has had with FBI agents before her book was published.  The FBI was asked to clarify its contacts with Belton and to say if its agents had been the ones identified at the London meeting with Belton which Steele had mentioned to Nuland. The FBI replied: “we will decline comment.”

Sources who are familiar with FBI investigations of Russian money-laundering and US organized crime suspect that Steele, then Belton, were manipulated by the FBI counter-intelligence division trying to score personal and bureaucratic points against their traditional rivals, the organized crime division of the Bureau and the CIA’s counter-intelligence division. The FBI’s counter-intelligence division had been discredited in 2001 when Robert Hanssen, one of the division’s supervisors, had been convicted of spying for the Russians for many years.   His exposure followed the disgrace of the parallel operation at the CIA after the FBI arrested Aldrich Ames.

In her book, Belton has parroted the Montoya-Laycock script from the counter-intelligence division without checking with the FBI’s organised crime division. “It is a comic-book version of the facts”, says a source familiar with the Russian evidence and the FBI’s investigations of American crime gangs. “Some things are funny, like her spelling of the Genovese crime family.” The source says Belton misreports most of the details in her book about Jewish-Russian émigrés whom she calls “mobsters” and accuses of “network funnelling money from the former Soviet Union into America, including – indirectly – into the business empire of Donald Trump.”

“They,” Belton’s book claims, “were part of an interconnecting web of figures that became testimony to the enduring power of the black-cash networks created in the final years of the Communist regime. Some of them later joined Trump in real-estate ventures, helping bail him out when he fell into financial difficulty, offering the prospect of lucrative construction deals in Moscow… The money flows that went through part of this network to Trump’s business operations are yet to be fully uncovered – they remain at the centre of a legal standoff between the Trump Organization and Congress over what records can be disclosed. But some of the contours of Moscow’s influence over Trump can be traced.”

This was the Steele fabrication which the FBI counter-intelligence division and its Crossfire Hurricane group turned into a weapon in support of the Clinton campaign against Trump. Named seventeen times in Belton’s book, Sam Kislin, says a source directly involved in their business, “was partners with Misha Chernoy in Trans-CIS Commodities, starting off as trading in pig iron, not chrome. Sam had nothing to do with TransWorld, especially when Misha left. They also ran Blond Management together. Arik Kislin was the runner and gofer. Sam and Semyon [Mogilevich] were substantial contributors to the Democrats, not the Republicans. Yaponchik [Vyacheslav Ivankov] was sent to the U.S. to put down the warfare in Little Odessa [Brighton Beach, Brooklyn] because the American Mob was getting a lot of heat from the NYPD [New York Police Department] about the violence of the Russian gangsters in NY.”

Belton’s version of the Yaponchik story was sourced to court testimony by an FBI organised crime division agent, Lester McNulty.   McNulty’s affidavit of 1995 makes no reference to Trump or to Trump businesses.

Belton, however, links Yaponchik to Trump by reporting: “Agents eventually tracked him [Yaponchik] down to a luxury condo in Trump Tower in Manhattan, and then to the Taj Mahal [casino], to which he made nineteen visits while under surveillance between March and April 1993, gambling $250,000 there. Trump had survived his first threat of bankruptcy, and the Russians were among those who had helped him do so. The Taj Mahal became such a popular spot for Russian émigrés that part of a Russian movie was filmed there, a comedy that featured a casino owned by the Russian mob.”

“This”, said the source familiar with Belton’s “network”, “is a myopic view of the situation without any understanding of what was happening in the US from a US point of view. Donald Trump’s father owed the Mob a lot of money (some said $58 million). When Biff Halloran of Transit-Mix went to prison the Mob turned to [Donald] Trump to help reduce his father’s debt. Trump was building hotels, partially financed by the Mob, but using cement and building materials provided by the Colombo, Lucchese and Genovese families. The Teamsters got to do all the trucking; the Westies got the Irish construction jobs, the ILA got the dock jobs on the stevedoring at the piers where the cement was imported. It was a money machine.”

“The Russians had nothing to do with it. They only bought space in the buildings as a wash for the cash they were bringing into the country; hotel rooms and golf clubs. With all that, Trump still managed to fail. When they started up Atlantic City, the Mob used Trump as a front to get the licenses and took a hefty cut of the winnings and the skim. This was to reduce the father’s debt and the new debt run up by the Donald. The problem was that Atlantic City was run by the Philly Mob which was having a small war between Angelo Bruno, Phil Testa and Little Nicky Scarfo. It all fell apart. What is important about this is that this was all American greed and corruption. We did not need Russian adventurers to show us how it was done. The Russians brought their cash to the laundry but we didn’t ask them how to run a laundromat.”

“With all the book’s references to leading Russians coming to the US, the influence of the Solntsevskaya and Izamailova groups, [Belton’s book] pretends that the Russians were running things. They were providing hot money which got cooled down by passing through the NY building trades. Fat Tony Salerno, Paulie Castellano, Ralphie Scapo, Jimmy Blue-Eyes of the Westies did not take orders and advice from Russians. They took the money and gave them a fair return.”

Pezzo Novantas [Sicilian slang for bigshot] like Trump just made it harder because they were ignorant and without power. Frankly, I was insulted by this book and its underlying premise that the Russian bad guys came to the US and corrupted the US with their evil ways.”

Shalva Chigirinsky (Credit: public domain)

A Russian émigré Belton interviewed four times in 2018 and 2019 and cites as her source for evidence of money links between Russian intelligence and Trump is Shalva Chigirinsky; Belton spells his name Tchigirinsky and cites him 64 times in the book. “In 2015, when Trump decided to run for the US presidency, Shalva Tchigirinsky was close by. He told me he was with Trump’s close friend and ally Steve Wynn, the casino owner who was to become a major donor for the Trump election campaign and subsequently the Republican Party’s finance chairman, soon after the decision was announced.” When she met Chigirinsky (right), she described him as“an ethnic Georgian with a thick mane of dark hair”. In fact, Chigirinsky is a Mingrelian Jew and from 2016 his hair was grey.

“What’s clear,” according to Belton, “is that ever since Tchigirinsky first appeared at the Taj Mahal in 1990, a network of Moscow/Solntsevskaya money men and intelligence operatives surrounded him, and that they stepped up the business connection after 2000”.

By the time Chigirinsky agreed to talk to Belton in 2018, his veracity had been called into doubt by court rulings on corporate fraud and wife beating in the UK and US. Belton omitted them in her footnotes. “Whether Tchigirinsky was involved in the Taj Mahal bondholders’ pact we may never know. He insisted he’d never invested in the Taj Mahal, but at one point when we were speaking of the financial difficulties that were facing the casino at that time, he spoke of the business almost as if it were his own.”

Chigirinsky is now suing Belton and HarperCollins in the High Court for libel. He filed on April 16, 2021. Two weeks later, the Financial Times reported the litigation with an attempt to discredit it. “Chigirinsky could not immediately be reached for comment through his lawyers,” the newspaper claimed, adding: “Jessica Ní Mhainín at the Index on Censorship, a group that campaigns for free expression, said London’s courts were becoming the venue of choice for legal action designed to ‘quash critical journalism, not only in the UK, but around the world’ .  She added that the UK is harbouring a global industry that profits from such lawsuits against journalists, and called for the introduction of reforms.”

At her new post in Bosnia-Herzogovina, Kavalevec [sic] was asked to clarify what her note of the Steele-Nuland meeting meant in referring to Belton and the London meeting. She did not respond.

Belton’s book does not mention the CIA in the text or index; she cites no CIA source of support for her allegations.” (Read more: John Helmer, 10/04/2021)  (Archive)

(Republished in part, with permission.)