December 2015

Late December, 2015 – British spy agency GCHQ tips off CIA director John Brennan that Putin was seeking to financially support Trump in the coming election

GCHQ headquarters in Cheltenham (Credit: BBC)

“Britain’s spy agencies played a crucial role in alerting their counterparts in Washington to contacts between members of Donald Trump’s campaign team and Russian intelligence operatives, the Guardian has been told.

GCHQ first became aware in late 2015 of suspicious “interactions” between figures connected to Trump and known or suspected Russian agents, a source close to UK intelligence said. This intelligence was passed to the US as part of a routine exchange of information, they added.

Over the next six months, until summer 2016, a number of western agencies shared further information on contacts between Trump’s inner circle and Russians, sources said.

The European countries that passed on electronic intelligence – known as sigint – included Germany, Estonia and Poland. Australia, a member of the “Five Eyes” spying alliance that also includes the US, UK, Canada and New Zealand, also relayed material, one source said.

Another source suggested the Dutch and the French spy agency, the General Directorate for External Security or DGSE, were contributors.

(..) “Both US and UK intelligence sources acknowledge that GCHQ played an early, prominent role in kickstarting the FBI’s Trump-Russia investigation, which began in late July 2016.

One source called the British eavesdropping agency the “principal whistleblower.” (Read more: The Guardian, 4/13/2017)

Late December 2015 – The investigations into Donald Trump and his campaign began much earlier, in Great Britain

(…) “Late 2015: According to several former and current western intelligence sources who spoke to this reporter, the investigations into President Donald Trump and his campaign began much earlier than has been reported and for that matter, it did not begin in the United States but rather across the Atlantic Ocean, in Great Britain.

An aerial view of the Government Communications Headquarters (GCHQ), located in the suburbs of Cheltenham, England. (Credit: public domain)

Intelligence community counterparts in Great Britain, specifically GCHQ, which is similar to America’s NSA, had already begun looking into what they alleged was contact between Russians and some members of the Trump campaign and played “an early, prominent role” according to these sources. But whether that information was requested by the U.S. as assistance to an investigation here or whether the British began the investigation on their own is still not clear.

The Guardian reported that British Intelligence sources shared its signals intelligence on people connected to Trump campaign with the United States. However, The Guardian also reports that Germany, Poland, and Estonia also shared communications related to members of the Trump campaign with the United States.  Great Britain, which is part of what is called the “Five-Eyes” alliance includes the United States, Australia, Canada and New Zealand and the countries often shared signals intelligence, raw communications between targets they were investigating.

If what we are being told is true, who inside the U.S. and British intelligence agencies were aware that members of the Trump campaign had their communications intercepted by British intelligence, purportedly investigating the Russians? Was it the U.S. who asked the British to assist in a counterintelligence investigation or did the British do this on their own as claimed in The Guardian? If this did occur, how directly involved were CIA Director John Brennan and Director of National Intelligence James Clapper in the information being shared by our allies? And how often had American political communications, unknown to the public, been intercepted by foreign governments for political purposes?

Moreover, if members of an administration collect information from allies based on overseas communications between opposition, what happens to that intelligence? How is it safeguarded from abuse and who or what agency has the oversight authority to ensure it is a legitimate counterintelligence investigation? Congressional oversight is always after-the-fact and lawmakers have been hampered by roadblocks set up by the DOJ, FBI and former senior officials of the Obama administration, who either have withheld documentation, evaded answering questions or lied.

If what the British and western intelligence officials are saying is true, then the investigation into the Trump campaign began much earlier than the FBI’s claims at the end of July 2016. More importantly, our allies may have been collecting more communications than we’re aware of on Trump campaign officials and volunteers. What we do know is that National Security Advisor Lt. Gen. Michael Flynn; Carter Page, a short time foreign policy volunteer for the campaign; Paul Manafort, a short-term campaign chair and George Papadopoulos, a young short-term foreign policy advisor were all caught up in the spying dragnet.” (Read more: Sarah Carter, 6/01/2(018) (The Guardian, 4/13/2017)

December 2015 – November 2016: Ukrainian lawmaker, Serhiy Leshchenko, is a Fusion GPS source during the 2016 campaign

Serhiy Leshchenko (Credit: The Associated Press)

“A member of the Ukrainian parliament accused in his home country of interfering in the 2016 U.S. presidential election was identified in congressional testimony in October as a source for opposition research firm Fusion GPS.

Nellie Ohr, a former contractor for the Washington, D.C.-based Fusion GPS, testified on Oct. 19 that Serhiy Leshchenko, a former investigative journalist turned Ukrainian lawmaker, was a source for Fusion GPS during the 2016 campaign.

“I recall … they were mentioning someone named Serhiy Leshchenko, a Ukrainian,” Ohr said when asked who Fusion GPS’s sources were, according to portions of Ohr’s testimony confirmed by The Daily Caller News Foundation.

Ohr, whose husband is Justice Department official Bruce Ohr, testified that she was not aware of Leshchenko’s source information, but that she knew he was providing information to Fusion GPS, where she worked between late 2015 and the 2016 election.

(…) Nellie Ohr did not describe the Leshchenko-Fusion GPS source relationship in greater detail, so it is not clear whether the Ukrainian lawmaker was paid, how he transmitted information to Fusion or with whom at the firm he maintained contact.

(…) Nellie Ohr testified that Leshchenko also provided Fusion GPS with information on Manafort.

Leshchenko, a member of Ukraine’s National Anti-Corruption Bureau, is widely credited with publishing a so-called “black ledger” that purported to show that Manafort received $12.7 million in illicit cash payments through 2012 from then-Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovych.

Manafort worked as a public relations consultant for Yanukovych and his political party from 2004 through 2014, when Yanukovych was forced out of office.

Leshchenko was a prominent media presence during and after the 2016 campaign, leveling allegations against Manafort and making it clear that he sought to portray Trump as a “pro-Russian candidate.”

“A Trump presidency would change the pro-Ukrainian agenda in American foreign policy,” Leshchenko told the Financial Times days after publicizing the black ledger on Aug. 14, 2016. “For me, it was important to show not only the corruption aspect, but that he is [a] pro-Russian candidate who can break the geopolitical balance in the world.”

Ironically, given Fusion GPS’s investigation of Russian meddling in the election, Leshchenko himself was found to have illegally interfered in the 2016 election. (Read more: The Daily Caller, 2/06/2019)

December 2015-2016: The various UK and Australian intelligence officials involved in Spygate and Russiagate

“Luke Harding, a journalist for The Guardian, reported on the early involvement of UK intelligence, noting that Britain’s Government Communications Headquarters (GCHQ) was engaged in collecting information and transmitting it to the United States beginning in late 2015.

Additionally, in the summer of 2016, Robert Hannigan, then-head of GCHQ, traveled to Washington to personally meet with then-CIA Director John Brennan. The BBC reported that Brennan’s involvement may have gone back to April 2016.

 

Robert Hannigan, Richard Dearlove and Andrew Wood

Brennan appears to have used the foreign intelligence to launch an interagency investigation of the Trump campaign. Former Director of National Intelligence James Clapper personally confirmed foreign intelligence involvement during congressional testimony on May 18, 2017.

Steele reportedly met with a number of UK officials regarding his dossier and investigation of Trump, including former MI6 head Richard Dearlove, who is also Steele’s former boss, and Andrew Wood, the former British ambassador to Russia.

Chris Burrows, Alex Younger and Andrew Parker

Dearlove advised Steele and his partner, Chris Burrows, to work with a “top British government official” to pass information to the FBI.

The Telegraph reported that Steele met with Charles Farr, the former chairman of Britain’s Joint Intelligence Committee, on two separate occasions to inform him of the events and information contained within his dossier. The two men, both former MI6 agents, had known each other for decades. The first meeting was reported as being in mid-November 2016, one week after the 2016 presidential election.

Alex Younger, the MI6 chief, and Andrew Parker, the MI5 director general, were then briefed about the dossier—before Trump was made aware of its existence by Comey.

Additionally, Alexander Downer, the Australian diplomat, met with Trump campaign adviser George Papadopoulos in May 2016, in a meeting established through a chain of two intermediaries.

Charles Farr, Christopher Steele and Alexander Downer

Information allegedly relayed by Papadopoulos during the meeting—that the Russians had damaging information on Hillary Clinton—appears nearly identical to information later contained in the first memo from Steele that the FBI obtained in early July 2016.

Downer’s conversation with Papadopoulos was reportedly disclosed to the FBI on July 22, 2016, through channels with the Australian government. Details from the conversation between Downer and Papadopoulos were then used by the FBI to open its counterintelligence investigation on July 31, 2016.” (Read more: themarketswork, 7/06/2019)  (Archive)

December 2015 – January 2017: Spygate, the true story of collusion – how America’s most powerful agencies were weaponized against Trump

Although the details remain complex, the structure underlying Spygate—the creation of the false narrative that candidate Donald Trump colluded with Russia, and the spying on his presidential campaign—remains surprisingly simple:

John Brennan (Credit: Don Emmert/AFP/Getty Images)

1. CIA Director John Brennan, with some assistance from Director of National Intelligence James Clapper, gathered foreign intelligence and fed it throughout our domestic Intelligence Community.

2. The FBI became the handler of Brennan’s intelligence and engaged in the more practical elements of surveillance.

3. The Department of Justice facilitated investigations by the FBI and legal maneuverings, while providing a crucial shield of nondisclosure.

4. The Department of State became a mechanism of information dissemination and leaks.

5. Hillary Clinton’s presidential campaign and the Democratic National Committee provided funding, support, and media collusion.

6. Obama administration officials were complicit, and engaged in unmasking and intelligence gathering and dissemination.

7. The media was the most corrosive element in many respects. None of these events could have transpired without their willing participation. Stories were pushed, facts were ignored, and narratives were promoted.

Let’s start with a simple premise: The candidacy of Trump presented both an opportunity and a threat.

Initially not viewed with any real seriousness, Trump’s campaign was seen as an opportunistic wedge in the election process. At the same time, and particularly as the viability of his candidacy increased, Trump was seen as an existential threat to the established political system.

The sudden legitimacy of Trump’s candidacy was not welcomed by the U.S. political establishment. Here was a true political outsider who held no traditional allegiances. He was brash and boastful, he ignored political correctness, he couldn’t be bought, and he didn’t care what others thought of him—he trusted himself.

Governing bodies in Britain and the European Union were also worried. Candidate Trump was openly challenging monetary policy, regulations, and the power of special interests. He challenged Congress. He challenged the United Nations and the European Union. He questioned everything.

Brennan became the point man in the operation to stop a potential Trump presidency. It remains unclear whether his role was self-appointed or came from above. To embark on such a mission without direct presidential authority seems both a stretch of the imagination and particularly foolhardy.

Brennan took unofficial foreign intelligence compiled by contacts, colleagues, and associates—primarily from the UK, but also from other Five Eyes members, such as Australia.

Individuals in official positions in UK intelligence, such as Robert Hannigan—head of the UK Government Communications Headquarters (GCHQ, Britain’s equivalent of the National Security Agency)—partnered with former UK foreign intelligence members. Former MI6 head Sir Richard Dearlove, former Ambassador Sir Andrew Wood, and private UK intelligence firm Hakluyt all played a role.

Click on the infographic at The Epoch Times to enlarge.

(Read much more: The Epoch Times, 10/12/2018)

Late December 2015 – The key foreign intelligence players behind Spygate

(…) “The intelligence agencies initiated reports that Donald Trump was colluding with Russia, they nurtured them and helped them grow, and then they spread the word to the press and key government officials.  Reportedly, they even tried to use these reports to force Trump to step down prior to his inauguration.  Although the corporate press accuses Trump of conspiring with Russia to stop Hillary Clinton, the reverse now seems to be the case: the Obama administration intelligence agencies worked with Clinton to block “Siberian candidate” Trump.

Sir Richard Dearlove (Credit: Reuters)

The template was provided by ex-MI6 Director Richard Dearlove, Halper’s friend and business partner.  Sitting in winged chairs in London’s venerable Garrick Club, according toThe Washington Post, Dearlove told fellow MI6 veteran Christopher Steele, author of the famous “golden showers” opposition research dossier, that Trump “reminded him of a predicament he had faced years earlier, when he was chief of station for British intelligence in Washington and alerted US authorities to British information that a vice presidential hopeful had once been in communication with the Kremlin.”

Apparently, one word from the Brits was enough to make the candidate in question step down.  When that didn’t work with Trump, Dearlove and his colleagues ratcheted up the pressure to make him see the light.  A major scandal was thus born – or, rather, a very questionable scandal.

Former director of GCHQ, Robert Hannigan (Credit: GCHQ)

Besides Dearlove, Steele, and Halper, a bon-vivant known as “The Walrus” for his impressive girth, other participants include:

  • Robert Hannigan, former director Government Communications Headquarters, GCHQ, UK equivalent of the NSA.
  • Alexander Downer, top Australian diplomat.
  • Andrew Wood, ex-British ambassador to Moscow.
  • Joseph Mifsud, Maltese academic.
  • James Clapper, ex-US Director of National Intelligence.
  • John Brennan, former CIA Director (and now NBC News analyst).

A few things stand out about this august group.  One is its in-bred quality.  After helping to run an annual confab known as the Cambridge Intelligence Seminar, Dearlove and Halper are now partners in a private venture calling itself “The Cambridge Security Initiative.”  Both are connected to another London-based intelligence firm known as Hakluyt & Co. Halper is also connected via two books he wrote with Hakluyt representative Jonathan Clarke and Dearlove has a close personal friendship with Hakluyt founder Mike Reynolds, yet another MI6 vet.  Alexander Downer served a half-dozen years on Hakluyt’s international advisory board, while Andrew Wood is linked to Steele via Orbis Business Intelligence, the private research firm that Steele helped found, and which produced the anti-Trump dossier, and where Wood now serves as an unpaid advisor.

CIA director John Brennan, visits Hakluyt’s New York office in January, 2018. Hakluyt retains close ties to the British Intelligence Agencies MI6 and GCHQ, as well as the intelligence agencies of Australia, New Zealand, Canada and the United States, also known as the Five-Eyes Alliance. (Credit: public domain)

Everyone, in short, seems to know everyone else.  But another thing that stands out about this group is its incompetence.  Dearlove and Halper appear to be old-school paranoids for whom every Russian is a Boris Badenov or a Natasha Fatale.  In February 2014, Halper notified US intelligence that Mike Flynn, Trump’s future national security adviser, had grown overly chummy with an Anglo-Russian scholar named Svetlana Lokhova whom Halper suspected of being a spy – suspicions that Lokhova convincingly argues are absurd. (Read more: Consortium News, 5/31/2018)

December 28, 2015 – A text message between Strzok and Page seeks approval for double agents

Newly unredacted text messages, sent between top FBI officials Peter Strzok and Lisa Page, suggest that the agency initiated an offensive counterintelligence operation against the Trump campaign as early as December 2015.

The Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee released 500 pages of documents and texts on June 4, the bulk of which consists of messages between Page and Strzok. One message, which was previously redacted, shows that FBI agents were working to recruit double agents as early as Dec. 28, 2015.

According to Chris Farrell, a former counterintelligence officer who ran double-agent operations for the U.S. Army, “oconus” stands for “outside the continental United States,” while “lures” refers to people used as bait to snag a potential double agent.” (Read more: The Epoch Times, 6/07/2018)

December 21, 2015 – Hill columnist, Brent Budowsky, emails John Podesta with advice for Clinton about Obama, Syria, ISIS and to “slaughter Donald for his bromance w/Putin”

Hill columnist, Brent Budowsky, sends an email to John Podesta on December 21, 2015, titled “HRC, Obama and ISIS.” Wikileaks exposes other emails from Budowsky (and dozens of other journalists), in support of Hillary’s candidacy throughout the 2016 Democratic primary and general election.

In this Podesta email released by Wikileaks, Budowsky shares advice for Hillary Clinton on Israel, Syria, Russian president Vladimir Putin, Syrian president Bashar al-Assad, the United Nations and Daesh, also known as ISIL/ISIS. Last but not least, he also mentions “slaughtering Donald for his bromance with Putin.”

(Original copy)

December 21, 2015 – Brent Budowsky advises John Podesta that Clinton should link Putin with Donald Trump in an apparent bid to distract voters from her strategy on ISIS in Syria

“Newly leaked emails show that Hillary Clinton’s campaign team was advised to link Russian President Vladimir Putin with Donald Trump in an apparent bid to distract voters from Clinton’s strategy on Islamic State (IS, formerly ISIS/ISIL).

The exchange of emails between Clinton campaign chair John Podesta and Clinton ally and columnist Brent Budowsky was among the batch of around 1,000 emails from Podesta’s account released by WikiLeaks on Saturday.

In a December 21, 2015 email, Budowsky slates Clinton’s position on fighting ISIS before advising Podesta to draw Putin into her attacks on US presidential election rival Trump.

Budowsky’s email follows a discussion with Podesta on how to best position the former secretary of state on the issue of tackling ISIS.

Budowsky warns that Clinton is not coming down strongly enough on fighting ISIS and that her support for President Barack Obama’s approach is a potential “death ray to her candidacy in a general election.”

Walk back and escape from her statement that ‘finally we are where we need to be’ against ISIS. We are not where we need to be, we are far from it, most voters do not believe it, and when the next terror attack comes in America – which it certainly will – she will be branded in hot iron with that statement,” Budowski warns.

She will never state what I believe we need to do – at least 20,000 ground troops with 3,000 American and at least 10,000 from Sunni Muslim nations – because she is consumed with keeping Obama’s goodwill and afraid of liberal backlash.”

Podesta counters: “Her reference was not to ISIS but to going after Assad diplomatically because of UNSC resolution passed Friday. We will make that clear. She has given two major speeches about how we are NOT where we need to be on ISIS.

That’s good, sooner it’s clarified the better, and the stronger the better,” Budowski replies, later adding: “Best approach is to slaughter Donald for his bromance with Putin, but not go too far betting on Putin re Syria.”

Speaking to RT after the emails were released by WikiLeaks on Saturday, Budowsky suggested that parts of the emails had been fabricated, denying that he ever wrote anything about “branding with a hot iron.”

“I don’t talk that way; I wouldn’t say that, and that was not in any of the emails,” he said. “So whoever added that, fabricated that.”

“As far as ‘slaughtering Donald Trump,’ about it, yes, I said that,” Budowsky added. “And the rest of it – fundamentally – does reflect my point of view.”

(Read more: Russia Today, 10/24/2016) (Podesta Email)

December 21, 2015 – Bill Priestap is unaware a key conduit for Steele to the FBI is DOJ official, Bruce Ohr

(…) “The FBI relied in large part on allegations contained in the so-called Steele dossier in obtaining a FISA warrant on Trump campaign adviser Carter Page. The author of the dossier, former MI6 agent Christopher Steele, as well as the company he was hired by, Fusion GPS, were both feeding information to the FBI through different channels.

A key conduit for Steele to the FBI was high-ranking DOJ official Bruce Ohr.

Asked if he was familiar with Ohr, Priestap told lawmakers, “I think I’ve seen Bruce Ohr, but I don’t think I’ve ever been in a meeting with Bruce Ohr.” Priestap also said he never worked with Ohr on a counterintelligence investigation, which would include the FBI’s investigation into Trump-Russia collusion:

Ms. Shen: So you have never worked with Bruce Ohr on a counterintelligence —

Mr. Priestap: I have not, no.

Priestap appeared to be completely unaware of the role that Ohr played in the FBI’s Crossfire Hurricane investigation into the Trump campaign—or of Ohr’s meetings with the FBI.

On July 30, 2016, Ohr had a breakfast meeting with Steele. In the days immediately following this meeting, Ohr met with McCabe and Page in McCabe’s FBI office.

In either late September or early October 2016, Ohr had another meeting—this time with Strzok, Page, and two or three DOJ career officials from the criminal division: Bruce Swartz, Zainab Ahmad, and Andrew Weissman (Ohr testified that he was unsure whether Weismann was at this or a later meeting).

On Nov. 21, 2016, Ohr had an additional meeting with Strzok and Page where he was introduced to FBI agent Joe Pientka, who would become Ohr’s FBI handler. Pientka was also present with Strzok during the Jan. 24, 2017, interview of then-national security adviser Lt. Gen. Michael Flynn.

On the following day, Nov. 22, 2016, Ohr met alone with Pientka. Ohr would continue to relay his communications with Steele to Pientka. Unbeknownst to Ohr, Pientka was transmitting all the information directly to Strzok for use in the Crossfire Hurricane investigation Priestap was overseeing.” (The Epoch Times, 1/31/2019)