Ukraine

May 9, 2019 – Who Were the Mueller Report’s Hired Guns?

By: Paul Sperry, RealClearInvestigations

“Special Counsel Robert Mueller spent more than $732,000 on outside contractors, including private investigators and researchers, records show, but his office refuses to say who they were. While it’s not unusual for special government offices to outsource for services such as computer support, Mueller also hired contractors to compile “investigative reports” and other “information.”

The arrangement has led congressional investigators, government watchdog groups and others to speculate that the private investigators and researchers who worked for the special counsel’s office might have included Christopher Steele and Fusion GPS, the private research firm that hired Steele to produce the Russia collusion dossier for the Clinton campaign.

Robert Mueller arriving at the office: His report recycles dossier dirt. (Credit: J. Scott Applewhite/The Associated Press)

They suspect the dossier creators may have been involved in Mueller’s operation – and even had a hand in his final report – because the special counsel sent his team to London to meet with Steele within a few months of taking over the Russia collusion investigation in 2017. Also, Mueller’s lead prosecutor, Andrew Weissmann, had shared information he received from Fusion with the media.

Raising additional suspicions, Mueller’s report recycles the general allegations leveled in the dossier. And taking a page from earlier surveillance-warrant applications in the Russia investigation, it cites as supporting evidence several articles – including one by Yahoo! News – that used Steele and Fusion as sources.

Mueller even kept alive one of the dossier’s most obscene accusations – that Moscow had “compromising tapes” of Trump with Russian hookers – by slipping into a footnote an October 2016 text Trump lawyer Michael Cohen received from a “Russian businessman,” who cryptically intimated, “Stopped flow of tapes from Russia.” Lawyers for the businessman, Giorgi Rtskhiladze (who is actually a Georgian-American), are demanding a retraction of the footnote, arguing Mueller omitted the part of his text where he said he did not believe the rumor about the tapes, for which no evidence has ever surfaced.

Mueller’s reliance on the Steele dossier is raising questions because it occurred long after FBI Director James B. Comey described the dossier as “salacious and unverified.”

U.S. Rep. Devin Nunes, the top Republican on the House Intelligence Committee, said the report should be renamed “The Mueller Dossier,” because he says it contains a lot of similar innuendo. Even though Mueller failed to corroborate key allegations leveled in the dossier, Nunes said his report twists key facts to put a collusion gloss on events. He also asserted that it selectively quotes from Trump campaign emails and omits exculpatory information in ways that cast the campaign’s activities in the most sinister light.

A detail from the website of Steele’s private London firm, Orbis Business Intelligence.

Steele’s 17-memo dossier alleged that the Trump campaign was involved in “a well-developed conspiracy of cooperation” with the Russian government to rig the 2016 presidential election in Trump’s favor. It claimed this conspiracy “was managed on the Trump side by Campaign Chairman Paul Manafort, who was using foreign policy adviser Carter Page and others as intermediaries.” Specifically, the dossier accused Page of secretly meeting with Kremlin officials in July 2016 to hatch a plot to release dirt on Hillary Clinton. And it accused Manafort of being corrupted by Russian President Vladimir Putin through his puppets in the Ukraine.

Likewise, Mueller’s report focuses on Manafort and Page and whether they “committed crimes by colluding with Russian government officials with respect to the Russian government’s efforts to interfere with the 2016 presidential election.”

Though the investigation did not establish that Page coordinated with the Russian government, the Mueller report implies there may be a kernel of truth to the dossier’s charges.

“In July 2016, Campaign foreign policy advisor Carter Page traveled in his personal capacity to Moscow and gave the keynote address at the New Economic School,” according to the section on him. “Page had lived and worked in Russia between 2003 and 2007. After returning to the United States, Page became acquainted with at least two Russian intelligence officers, one of whom was later charged in 2015 with conspiracy to act as an unregistered agent of Russia.”

Carter Page at a news conference  in Moscow in 2016. (Credit: Pavel Golovkin/The Associated Press)

Carter Page, a former foreign policy adviser of U.S. President-elect Donald Trump, heads to a news conference at RIA Novosti news agency in Moscow, Russia, Monday, Dec. 12, 2016. Page said he was in Moscow on a visit to meet with businessmen and politicians.

Page’s July 2016 trip to Moscow and his advocacy for pro-Russian foreign policy drew media attention,” Mueller’s narrative continued. “July 2016 was also the month WikiLeaks first released emails stolen by the GRU [Russian intelligence] from the DNC.”

“Page acknowledged that he understood that the individuals he has associated with were members of the Russian intelligence services,” the report added, implying that Page in the 2015 case (referenced above) knowingly cavorted with Russian spies, which echoes charges Steele made in his dossier.

But federal court records make it clear that Page did not know that those men were Russian agents.

Mueller also left out of his report a detail RealClearInvestigations has previously reported: that Page was a cooperating witness in the case in question, helping the FBI eventually put a Russian agent behind bars in 2016. Nor did Mueller see fit to include in his report another exculpatory detail revealed in agent Gregory Mohaghan’s complaint and reported earlier by RCI — namely, that the Russians privately referred to Page as “an idiot” who was unworthy of recruitment.

Excluding such details is curious, given that the Mueller report quotes from the same FBI complaint and cites it in its footnotes. Similarly, in its section dealing with Manafort, the Mueller report echoes the dossier’s claims that the Trump campaign chairman was in cahoots with the Kremlin, even though Mueller never charged him with  conspiring to collude with Russia.

A 2006 photo of Konstantin Kilimnik, a longtime employee of Paul Manafort who ran the Ukraine office of his lobbying firm. The Mueller report suggests he was one of Manafort’s Kremlin handlers. (Credit: The Associated Press)

The special prosecutor’s report indicated that one of Manafort’s Kremlin handlers was Konstantin Kilimnik.

“Manafort briefed Kilimnik on the state of the Trump Campaign and Manafort’s plan to win the election,” it said. “That briefing encompassed the Campaign’s messaging and its internal polling data. It also included discussion of ‘battleground’ states, which Manafort identified as Michigan, Wisconsin, Pennsylvania and Minnesota.”

Except that this wouldn’t have been an unusual conversation: Kilimnik was a longtime Manafort employee who ran the Ukraine office of his lobbying firm. Footnotes in Mueller’s report show that Manafort shared campaign information to impress a former business partner, Russian oligarch Oleg Deripaska, who was suing him over financial losses. Mueller failed to tie the information exchange to Russian espionage. He also failed to mention that Deripaska is an FBI informant.

Mueller’s team worked closely with dossier author Steele, a long-retired British intelligence officer who worked for the Clinton campaign. Mueller’s investigators went to London to consult with Steele for at least two days in September 2017 while apparently using his dossier as an investigative road map and central theory to his collusion case. Steele now runs a private research and consulting firm in London, Orbis Business Intelligence.

It’s not clear if Mueller’s office paid Steele, but recently released FBI records show the bureau previously made a number of payments to him, and at one point during the 2016 campaign offered him $50,000 to continue his dossier research. Steele was also paid through the Clinton campaign, earning $168,000 for his work on the dossier.

Paul Manafort at court last year with wife Kathleen. (Credit: Jacquelyn Martin/The Associated Press)

Expenditure statements show that the Special Counsel’s Office outsourced “investigative reports” and “information” to third-party contractors during Mueller’s investigation into alleged Russian “collusion” during the 2016 presidential election.

Over the past few months, Mueller’s office has rejected several formal requests from RealClearInvestigations for contract details, including who was hired and how much they were paid.

Washington-based Judicial Watch suspects Mueller’s office may have farmed out work to the private Washington research firm Fusion GPS or its subcontractor Steele, both of whom were paid by the Clinton camp during the 2016 presidential election. Several law enforcement and Hill sources who spoke with RCI also believe Steele and Fusion GPS were deputized in the investigation.

The government watchdog group has requested that the Justice Department turn over the contracting records, along with all budget requests Mueller submitted to the attorney general during his nearly two-year investigation. It’s also requested all communications between the Special Counsel’s Office and the private contractors it used.

A Judicial Watch spokesman said its Freedom of Information Act request is pending.

Glenn Simpson (Credit: Pablo Martinez Monsivais/The Associated Press)

Special counsel spokesman Peter Carr declined comment when asked specifically if Mueller’s team hired or collaborated with Fusion GPS or any of its subcontractors. Mueller took over the FBI’s Russia probe in May 2017, whereupon he hired many of the agents who handled Steele and pored over his dossier.

For the first reporting period ending Sept. 30, 2017, and covering just four months, the Special Counsel’s Office reported paying $867 to unnamed contractors for “investigative reports/information,” along with $3,554 in “miscellaneous” payments to contractors.

In the next reporting period ending March 31, 2018, the office stopped breaking out investigative reports and information as a separate line item, lumping such contractual services under the category “Other,” which accounted for a total of $10,812, or more than 4% of the total spending on outside contracts.

For the six months ending Dona – the latest reporting period for which there is data – Mueller’s office showed a total of $310,732 in payments to outside contractors. For the first time, it did not break out such expenses into subcategories, though it noted that the lion’s share of the $310,000 was spent on “IT services.”

Mueller concluded his investigation and delivered his final report in March. The next expenditure report, for the period October 2018-March 2019, will cover contract work directly tied to compiling the report.

Asked if the contracting details were classified, Carr demurred. If the information is not deemed classified, it must be made public, Judicial Watch maintains.

Republican critics on the Hill say Mueller’s written narrative was slanted to give the impression there still might be something to the dossier’s most salacious allegations, even though Mueller found no evidence corroborating them or establishing that Trump or his campaign coordinated or cooperated with Russian meddling in the election.

“Whoever wrote the report leaves you with the idea there’s still something to all the allegations of collusion that were first promoted by the dossier,” said a witness who was interviewed by Mueller’s investigators late in the probe and is referenced in the report.

Donald Trump Jr., right, with his father: The Mueller report gives the miss-impression that the president’s oldest son was collaborating with WikiLeaks. (Credit: Evan Vucci/The Associated Press)

In a section on Donald Trump Jr., moreover, the report gives the misimpression that the president’s oldest son was collaborating with WikiLeaks on the release of the Clinton campaign emails.

“Donald Trump Jr. had direct electronic communications with WikiLeaks during the campaign period,” it stated.

In fact, Trump got an unsolicited message through his Twitter account from WikiLeaks. He described the outreach as “weird” in an email to senior Trump campaign staff at the time. Other contemporaneous messages make it clear he had no advance knowledge about any Clinton emails released by WikiLeaks.

The FBI first began receiving memos from Steele’s dossier in early July 2016 and used the documents as the foJeundation for its October 2016 application for a warrant to wiretap the private communications of Page. These milestones are missing from the Mueller report’s chronology of events. In fact, neither Steele nor his dossier is mentioned by name anywhere in the first half of the report dealing with collusion, though their allegations are hashed out.

Some Mueller critics are focused on the role played by his top prosecutor, Andrew Weissmann, a Democrat and Hillary Clinton supporter with longstanding ties to Steele and Fusion GPS.

Andrew Weissmann, now a senior fellow at NYU Law. (Credit: NYU Law)

“Weissman had a lot to do with the way the report was written,” said author Jerome Corsi, who, as a friend of Trump confidant Roger Stone, was targeted by Mueller. “That’s why it’s basically a political document.”

Corsi said he spent more than 40 hours with Mueller’s prosecutors and investigators, who grilled him about possible ties to WikiLeaks but never charged him with a crime.

Formerly a top Justice Department official under Obama, Weissmann not only donated to Clinton’s presidential campaign but also attended her election-night party in New York City in November 2016. Three months earlier, he was briefed on Steele’s dossier and other dirt provided by the Clinton contractor and paid FBI informant. In early 2017, Weissmann helped advance the Russia collusion narrative by personally sharing Steele’s and Fusion’s dirt on Trump and his advisers with Washington reporters.

In an April 2017 meeting he arranged at his office, Weissmann gave guidance to four Associated Press reporters who were investigating Manafort, according to internal FBI  documents.

Among other things, they discussed rumors that Manafort used “some of the money from shell companies to buy expensive suits.” A month later, Weissmann became the lead prosecutor handling the Manafort case for Mueller. His February 2018 indictment of Manafort highlights, among other things, the Trump adviser’s taste for expensive suits.

Attempts to reach Weissmann for comment were unsuccessful.

Edward Baumgartner: worked for Fusion GPS
Davis Center for Russian and Eurasian Studies. (Credit: YouTube screen grab)

Judicial Watch President Tom Fitton said there are signs Mueller may have hired “researchers” like Fusion GPS founder Glenn Simpson, who worked with Steele on the dossier, along with Edward Baumgartner and Nellie Ohr, who have worked for Fusion GPS, which originally hired Steele in June 2016 after contracting with the Clinton campaign.

“I ran into Glenn at the 2017 Aspen Security [Forum], and I distinctly remember him leaning in and claiming he was working for the government,” said one associate, who wished to remain anonymous.

Congressional investigators say Simpson, a former Wall Street Journal reporter, has been feeding Democratic leaders in both the House and Senate investigative tips regarding Trump and his associates, including Manafort.

In 2017, for instance, he urged Democrats specifically to look into the bank records of Deutsche Bank, which has financed some of Trump’s businesses, because he suspected some of the funding may have been laundered through Russia.

Around the time Simpson began coordinating with Democratic investigators looking into Trump’s bank records, Mueller subpoenaed Deutsche Bank for financial records for Manafort and other individuals affiliated with Trump.

Simpson did not return calls and emails seeking comment.

Founded by the journalist-turned-opposition researcher, Fusion has rehired Steele to continue his anti-Trump work with millions of dollars in left-wing funding from The Democracy Integrity Project, a Washington-based nonprofit started in 2017 by former FBI analyst Daniel Jones, who also worked for Democratic Sen. Dianne Feinstein.

In March 2017, Jones met with FBI agents to provide them data he collected from IT specialists he hired to analyze web traffic between servers maintained by the Trump Organization and a Russian bank mentioned in the dossier. The traffic turned out to be innocuous marketing emails, or spam. (RealClearInvestigations, 5/09/2019)

(This and all other original articles created by RealClearInvestigations may be republished for free with attribution. These terms do not apply to outside articles linked on the site.)

March 23, 2017 – Crowdstrike co-founder and donor to the Clinton Foundation, Dmitri Alperovitch, is a senior fellow at the Atlantic Council, a think tank with openly anti-Russian sentiments

Dmitri Alperovitch (Credit: Sebastian Gabriel/picture alliance)

“The cyber security firm outsourced by the Democratic National Committee, CrowdStrike, reportedly misread data, falsely attributing a hacking in Ukraine to the Russians in December 2016. Voice of America, a US Government funded media outlet, reported, “the CrowdStrike report, released in December, asserted that Russians hacked into a Ukrainian artillery app, resulting in heavy losses of howitzers in Ukraine’s war with Russian-backed separatists. But the International Institute for Strategic Studies (IISS) told VOA that CrowdStrike erroneously used IISS data as proof of the intrusion. IISS disavowed any connection to the CrowdStrike report.

(…) The investigation methods used to come to the conclusion that the Russian Government led the hacks of the DNCClinton Campaign Chair John Podesta, and the DCCC were further called into question by a recent BuzzFeed report by Jason Leopold, who has developed a notable reputation from leading several non-partisan Freedom of Information Act lawsuits for investigative journalism purposes. On March 15 that the Department of Homeland Security released just two heavily redacted pages of unclassified information in response to an FOIA request for definitive evidence of Russian election interference allegations. Leopold wrote, “what the agency turned over to us and Ryan Shapiro, a PhD candidate at MIT and a research affiliate at Harvard University, is truly bizarre: a two-page intelligence assessment of the incident, dated Aug. 22, 2016, that contains information DHS culled from the internet. It’s all unclassified — yet DHS covered nearly everything in wide swaths of black ink. Why? Not because it would threaten national security, but because it would reveal the methods DHS uses to gather intelligence, methods that may amount to little more than using Google.”

Hillary Clinton accepts the Atlantic Council’s 2013 Distinguished International Leadership Award. (Credit: YouTube)

In lieu of substantive evidence provided to the public that the alleged hacks which led to Wikileaks releases of DNC and Clinton Campaign Manager John Podesta’s emails were orchestrated by the Russian Government, CrowdStrike’s bias has been cited as undependable in its own assessment, in addition to its skeptical methods and conclusions. The firm’s CTO and co-founder, Dmitri Alperovitch, is a senior fellow at the Atlantic Council, a think tank with openly anti-Russian sentiments that is funded by Ukrainian billionaire Victor Pinchuk, who also happened to donate at least $10 million to the Clinton Foundation.

In 2013, the Atlantic Council awarded Hillary Clinton it’s Distinguished International Leadership Award. In 2014, the Atlantic Council hosted one of several events with former Ukrainian Prime Minister Arseniy Yatsenyuk, who took over after pro-Russian President Viktor Yanukovych was ousted in early 2014, who now lives in exile in Russia.” (Read more: CounterPunch, 3/23/2017)

March 20, 2019 – Senior Ukrainian official opens probe into US 2016 election interference on behalf of Hillary Clinton

Yuriy Lutsenko (Credit: Reuters)

“Ukrainian Prosecutor General Yuriy Lutsenko told Hill.TV’s John Solomon in an interview aired on Wednesday that he has opened a probe into alleged attempts by Ukrainians to interfere in the United States’ 2016 presidential election.

“Today we will launch a criminal investigation about this and we will give legal assessment of this information,” Lutsenko said last week.

Lutsenko is probing a claim from a member of the Ukrainian parliament that the director of the National Anti-Corruption Bureau of Ukraine (NABU), Artem Sytnyk, attempted to the benefit of the 2016 U.S. presidential election on behalf of Hillary Clinton.

Hill.TV has also reached out to the U.S. Embassy in Ukraine, NABU, and Clinton’s spokesperson for comment.

“According to the member of parliament of Ukraine, he got the court decision that the NABU official conducted an illegal intrusion into the American election campaign,” Lutsenko said.

“It means that we think Mr. Sytnyk, the NABU director, officially talked about criminal investigation with Mr. [Paul] Manafort, and at the same time, Mr. Sytnyk stressed that in such a way, he wanted to assist the campaign of Ms. Clinton,” he continued.

Solomon asked Lutsenko about reports that a member of Ukraine’s parliament obtained a tape of the current head of the NABU saying that he was attempting to help Clinton win the 2016 presidential election, as well as connections that helped release the black-ledger files that exposed Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort’s wrongdoing in Ukraine.” (Video: The Hill, 3/20/2019)

February 18, 2017 – Opinion: No one mentions that the Russian trail leads to Democratic lobbyists

(…) “The media’s focus on Trump’s Russian connections ignores the much more extensive and lucrative business relationships of top Democrats with Kremlin-associated oligarchs and companies. Thanks to the Panama Papers, we know that the Podesta Group (founded by John Podesta’s brother, Tony) lobbied for Russia’s largest bank, Sberbank. “Sberbank is the Kremlin, they don’t do anything major without Putin’s go-ahead, and they don’t tell him ‘no’ either,” explained a retired senior U.S. intelligence official. According to a Reuters report, Tony Podesta was “among the high-profile lobbyists registered to represent organizations backing Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovich.” Among these was the European Center, which paid Podesta $900,000 for his lobbying.

That’s not all: The busy Podesta Group also represented Uranium One, a uranium company acquired by the Russian government which received approval from Hillary Clinton’s State Department to mine for uranium in the U.S. and gave Russia twenty percent control of US uranium. The New York Times reported Uranium One’s chairman, Frank Guistra, made significant donations to the Clinton Foundation, and Bill Clinton was paid $500,000 for one speech from a Russian investment bank that has “links to the Kremlin that was promoting Uranium One stock.” Notably, Frank Giustra, the Clinton Foundation’s largest and most controversial donor, does not appear anywhere in Clinton’s “non-private” emails. It is possible that the emails of such key donors were automatically scrubbed to protect the Clinton Foundation.

Let’s not leave out fugitive Ukrainian oligarch, Dymtro Firtash. He is represented by Democratic heavyweight lawyer, Lanny Davis, who accused Trump of “inviting Putin to commit espionage” (Trump’s quip: If Putin has Hillary’s emails, release them) but denies all wrongdoing by Hillary.

(…) Lobbying for Russia is a bi-partisan activity. Gazprombank GPB, a subsidiary of Russia’s third largest bank, Gazprombank, is represented by former Sen. John Breaux, (D., La.), and former Senate Majority Leader Trent Lott (R., Miss.), as main lobbyists on “banking laws and regulations, including applicable sanctions.” The Breaux-Lott client is currently in the Treasury Department list of Russian firms prohibited from debt financing with U.S. banks.” (Read more: Forbes, 2/18/2017)

December 30, 2016 – The credibility of cyber firm Crowdstrike, claiming Russia hacked the DNC, comes under serious question

Jeffrey Carr (Credit: Vimeo)

“The cyber security firm hired to inspect the DNC hack and determine who was responsible is a firm called Crowdstrike. Its conclusion that Russia was responsible was released last year, but several people began to call its analysis into question upon further inspection.

Jeffrey Carr was one of the most prominent cynics, and as he noted in his December post, FBI/DHS Joint Analysis Report: A Fatally Flawed Effort:

The FBI/DHS Joint Analysis Report (JAR) “Grizzly Steppe” was released yesterday as part of the White House’s response to alleged Russian government interference in the 2016 election process. It adds nothing to the call for evidence that the Russian government was responsible for hacking the DNC, the DCCC, the email accounts of Democratic party officials, or for delivering the content of those hacks to Wikileaks.

It merely listed every threat group ever reported on by a commercial cybersecurity company that is suspected of being Russian-made and lumped them under the heading of Russian Intelligence Services (RIS) without providing any supporting evidence that such a connection exists.

Unlike Crowdstrike, ESET doesn’t assign APT28/Fancy Bear/Sednit to a Russian Intelligence Service or anyone else for a very simple reason. Once malware is deployed, it is no longer under the control of the hacker who deployed it or the developer who created it. It can be reverse-engineered, copied, modified, shared and redeployed again and again by anyone. In other words — malware deployed is malware enjoyed!

If ESET could do it, so can others. It is both foolish and baseless to claim, as Crowdstrike does, that X-Agent is used solely by the Russian government when the source code is there for anyone to find and use at will.

If the White House had unclassified evidence that tied officials in the Russian government to the DNC attack, they would have presented it by now. The fact that they didn’t means either that the evidence doesn’t exist or that it is classified.

If it’s classified, an independent commission should review it because this entire assignment of blame against the Russian government is looking more and more like a domestic political operation run by the White House that relied heavily on questionable intelligence generated by a for-profit cybersecurity firm with a vested interest in selling “attribution-as-a-service”.

Nevertheless, countless people, including the entirety of the corporate media, put total faith in the analysis of Crowdstrike despite the fact that the FBI was denied access to perform its own analysis. Which makes me wonder, did the U.S. government do any real analysis of its own on the DNC hack, or did it just copy/paste Crowdstrike?

As The Hill reported in January:

The FBI requested direct access to the Democratic National Committee’s (DNC) hacked computer servers but was denied, Director James Comey told lawmakers on Tuesday.

The bureau made “multiple requests at different levels,” according to Comey, but ultimately struck an agreement with the DNC that a “highly respected private company” would get access and share what it found with investigators.

“We’d always prefer to have access hands-on ourselves if that’s possible,” Comey said, noting that he didn’t know why the DNC rebuffed the FBI’s request.

This is nuts. Are all U.S. government agencies simply listening to what Crowdstike said in coming to their “independent” conclusions that Russia hacked the DNC? If so, that’s a huge problem. Particularly considering what Voice of America published yesterday in a piece titled, Cyber Firm at Center of Russian Hacking Charges Misread Data:

An influential British think tank and Ukraine’s military are disputing a report that the U.S. cybersecurity firm CrowdStrike has used to buttress its claims of Russian hacking in the presidential election.

The CrowdStrike report, released in December, asserted that Russians hacked into a Ukrainian artillery app, resulting in heavy losses of howitzers in Ukraine’s war with Russian-backed separatists.

But the International Institute for Strategic Studies (IISS) told VOA that CrowdStrike erroneously used IISS data as proof of the intrusion. IISS disavowed any connection to the CrowdStrike report. Ukraine’s Ministry of Defense also has claimed combat losses and hacking never happened.

The challenges to CrowdStrike’s credibility are significant because the firm was the first to link last year’s hacks of Democratic Party computers to Russian actors, and because CrowdStrike co-founder Dimiti Alperovitch has trumpeted its Ukraine report as more evidence of Russian election tampering.

(Read more: Michael Krieger/Liberty Blitzkrieg, 3/22/2017)

October 18, 2016 – What the Steele dossier gets wrong about Michael Cohen

Christopher Steele (l) and Michael Cohen (credit: Getty Images)

“Christopher Steele, the former British spy who wrote the dossier, makes several claims about Cohen in his 35-page report. The most jarring allegation is that Cohen visited Prague in August 2016 to meet with Kremlin officials to discuss paying off computer hackers.

The Prague allegation has been one of the most hotly debated claims made in the dossier, which was funded by the Clinton campaign and DNC. Cohen has vehemently denied the charge, including as recently as December, well after he began cooperating with the special counsel’s investigation into possible Trump campaign collusion. Steele’s defenders claim that the Prague claim is still an open question and that much of the dossier has been verified.

The dossier does contain some clear inaccuracies about Cohen and members of his family, specifically in a memo that Steele wrote on Oct. 18, 2016. But those false claims have largely flown under the radar during the dossier debate because they were one of only a couple of sections of the dossier that BuzzFeed redacted prior to publishing it on Jan. 10, 2017.

An unredacted version was unsealed earlier this month in a lawsuit that was filed against BuzzFeed by another target of the dossier.

In the memo, Steele alleged that Cohen’s wife was born in Russia and that her father was a leading property developer in Moscow.

“Speaking separately to the same compatriot in mid-October 2016, a Kremlin insider with direct access to the leadership confirmed that a key role in the secret TRUMP campaign/Kremlin relationship was being played by the Republican candidate’s personal lawyer Michael COHEN. COHEN had a wife of Russian origin, whose father, Efim SHUSTERMAN, was a leading Moscow property developer,” reads the memo.

(A snippet from the Clinton/DNC/Steele dossier.)

“It appears that SHUSTERMAN has a country house (dacha) in the settlement of Barvikha, west of Moscow. This village is reserved for the residences of the top leadership and their close associates.”

BuzzFeed acknowledged in its initial report on Jan. 10, 2017 that some claims in the dossier were inaccurate. The site specifically pointed to the misspelling of the Russian bank, Alfa Bank, as well as the claim that Barvikha is reserved for wealthy Russians. The site did not acknowledge the inaccurate claims about Cohen’s family.

Contrary to what the Steele memo claims, Cohen’s father-in-law is named Fima Shusterman, not Efim. He was also born in Ukraine and not Russia, as The New York Times and other outlets have reported. He left Soviet-controlled Ukraine for the United States in 1975, initially working as a taxi driver. Shusterman reportedly built a taxi medallion business worth millions of dollars. He has faced legal problems in the past, having been convicted in 1993 of tax evasion.” (Read more: The Daily Caller, 2/25/2019)

August 19, 2016 – Manafort resigns as Trump campaign manager

Paul Manafort (Credit: Rick Wilking/Reuters)

“The Trump campaign announced Manafort was resigning from the campaign, nearly 5 months after he joined.

“I am very appreciative for his great work in helping to get us where we are today, and in particular his work guiding us through the delegate and convention process,” Trump said in a statement. “Paul is a true professional and I wish him the greatest success.”

The Trump campaign provided no reason for Manafort’s resignation. But in the days immediately leading up to the announcement, the New York Times reported investigators were looking into $12.7 million in undisclosed cash payments to Manafort from former Ukrainian president Viktor Yanukovych, and the Associated Press reported he helped a pro-Russian party in Ukraine funnel money to lobbying firms in Washington, D.C.

“I think my father didn’t want to be distracted by whatever things Paul was dealing with,” Trump’s son Eric told Fox News after the resignation. “Paul was amazing, and, yes, he helped us get through the primary process, he helped us get through the convention. He did a great job with the delegates. But, again, my father didn’t want to have the distraction looming over the campaign.”

Shortly before Manafort’s resignation, Steve Bannon and Kellyanne Conway, now senior advisers to the White House, were brought on as the campaign’s chief executive and campaign manager, and ultimately led Trump to an unexpected victory in November. (Fortune, 3/22/2017)

It is suggested that the Russian government has attempted to influence elections in other countries, sometimes by using front groups.

160724MichaelVickersBAESystems

Michael Vickers (Credit: BAE Systems, Inc.)

Michael Vickers, who was undersecretary of defense for intelligence from 2011 to 2015, says that if the Russian government is behind the recent leak of Democratic National Committee (DNC) emails by WikiLeaks, it would be unprecedented for the US. “What is really new here is the attempt to influence the politics of the United States. That is the problem.”

However, he also points out that there is evidence the Russians have attempted to influence elections in European countries close to their border. For instance, in 2004, a Russian hacker group calling itself Cyber Berkut claimed it hacked and disabled the electronic vote-counting system of the Ukraine central election commission three days before the presidential election. However, analysts believe the hack was actually done by the Glavnoje Razvedyvatel’noje Upravlenije (GRU), one of two Russian military intelligence agencies accused of recently hacking the DNC. These analysts claim the GRU created Cyber Berkut as a false front to deflect responsibility. (The Washington Post, 7/24/2016)

May 4, 2016 – DNC Alexandra Chalupa writes to DNC Luis Miranda, about Isikoff, Manafort, and “a big Trump component that will hit in the next few weeks”

From a Wikileaks email sent by Alexandra Chalupa to Luis Miranda, Communications Director of the DNC:

(Credit: Wikileaks)

Two points.

Open World is a supposedly non-partisan Congressional agency.

Michael Isikoff is the same journalist Christopher Steele leaked to in September 2016:

The Carter Page FISA application extensively cited a September 23, 2016, Yahoo News article by Michael Isikoff, which focused on Page’s July 2016 trip to Moscow. This information was used to corroborate the Steele Dossier.

Steele leaked to Isikoff who wrote the article for Yahoo News. The Isikoff article was then used to help obtain a Title I FISA grant to gather information on Page. This search was then leaked by Steele to David Corn at Mother Jones.

Isikoff accompanied Chalupa to a reception at the Ukrainian Embassy immediately after the Library of Congress event.

Hacking attacks on a DNC consultant researching pro-Russian politicians in Ukraine lead DNC leaders to conclude the Russian government is behind such attacks.

160530AlexandraChalupaLinkedIn

Alexandra Chalupa (Credit: Linked In)

Alexandra Chalupa, a consultant for the Democratic National Committee (DNC), has been working for several weeks on an opposition research file about Paul Manafort, the campaign manager of Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump. Manafort has a long history of advising politicians around the world, including controversial dictators. Logging into her Yahoo email account, she gets a warning entitled “Important action required” from a Yahoo cybersecurity team. The warning adds, “We strongly suspect that your account has been the target of state-sponsored actors.”

Paul Manafort (Credit: Linked In)

Paul Manafort (Credit: Linked In)

Paul Manafort was a key adviser to Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovych from 2004 until 2010. Yanukovych is a controversial figure frequently accused of widespread corruption and was overthrown after a massive series of protests in February 2014, and has since been living in Russia, protected by the Russian government. Chalupa had been drafting memos and writing emails about Manafort’s link to pro-Russian Ukrainian leaders such as Yanukovych when she got the warning. She had been in contact with investigative journalists in Ukraine who had been giving her information about Manafort’s ties there.

Chalupa immediately alerts top DNC officials. But more warnings from Yahoo’s security team follows. On May 3, 2016, she writes in an email to DNC communications director Luis Miranda, “Since I started digging into Manafort, these messages have been a daily occurrence on my Yahoo account despite changing my password often.”

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A photo capture of the Yahoo security warning appearing on DNC consultant Alexandra Chalupa’s computer screen. (Credit: Yahoo News)

In July 2016, she will tell Yahoo News, “I was freaked out,” and “This is really scary.” Her email message to Miranda will later be one of 20,000 emails released by WikiLeaks on July 22, 2016, showing that there was good reason to be concerned about hacking attempts.

Chalupa’s email to Miranda, results in concern amongst top level DNC officials. One unnamed insider will later say. “That’s when we knew it was the Russians,” since Russia would be very interested in Chalupa’s research and other countries like China would not. This source also says that as a precaution, “we told her to stop her research.”

Yahoo will later confirm that it did send numerous warnings to Chalupa, and one Yahoo security official will say, “Rest assured we only send these notifications of suspected attacks by state-sponsored actors when we have a high degree of confidence.” (Yahoo News, 7/25/2016)