OH HEY MORE Steele Dossier Says PAUL MANAFORT Used Trump Org Server To Sext The Russians? SOME COLLUSION!
Trumpy wingnuts, in their quest to prove that the FBI did DEEP STATE HILLARY-ING to TRUMP by FRAMING him for RUSSIA STUFF, may have just opened (or helped re-open) a new line of inquiry in the question of the connections between Donald Trump's campaign and Russia, in Russia's active measures op to steal the 2016 election.
The usual suspects -- known mental pube John Solomon over at The Hill, Hannity's favorite "journalist" Sara Carter -- are crowing about the fruits of a FOIA request from David Bossie's Citizens United, saying it's the smoking gun that proves British spy Christopher Steele wanted his research to get out there before the election, which just proves he is SHILLARY for HILLARY, and so forth, you know the rest. And it's true, according to a memo from then-Deputy Assistant Secretary of State Kathleen Kavalec, that Steele briefed US officials on October 11, 2016, and said the group that hired him, which had been hacked by the Russians, was "keen to see this information come to light before November 8." (Is this new information? Nope. Glenn Simpson, the head of Fusion GPS, testified to Congress that Steele was near apoplectic trying to get the FBI to fucking listen to him about the ongoing attack on the American election. And if you were the people who got hacked -- the DNC and the Hillary Clinton campaign -- wouldn't you want the American people to know the election was under attack? Jesus fuck, this is not complicated.)
Of course, because Solomon appears to have fleas in his cranial cavity, this just proves his conspiracy theory true, because 10 days later, the FBI got a FISA warrant on Carter Page, and that means ... we don't know what the fuck he thinks it means. We have read every word he wrote, and the only thing we can really glean is that if John Solomon was our dad, we would kindly trick him into seeing a neurologist by promising him ice cream and a field trip to the petting zoo.
The thing is, if Solomon is reading from the same FOIA-ed document Wonkette is reading from, he either missed a big section, or he's lying by omission to his readers. He claims the whole document from Kavalec's memo is redacted, and maybe it was when he saw it. But the document Citizens United uploaded to the interweb, while indeed heavily redacted, features what amounts to a brand new mini-dossier of information from Christopher Steele, one that stopped us in our FUCKING tracks, now that we have read the full Mueller Report.
It comes on page 17 of the Kavalec memo, and it has some WHOA IF TRUE claims about Paul Manafort, and whether he might have been the biological operator of that weird Trump Organization server that only communicated with two Alfa Bank servers in Russia and one associated with the DeVos family's Spectrum Health. (Remember that weird server? Blast from the past! And did you forget Betsy's husband Dick DeVos runs Spectrum Health and that it might have some role to play here?)
Before we read this, recall how House Intel Committee Chair Adam Schiff was just telling us that the FBI has been stonewalling them for months now, refusing to give them counter-intel briefings, which includes all the counter-intel Robert Mueller found in his investigation, none of which found its way into his report. Recall how Schiff said he's pretty much for damn sure Trump and Bill Barr are the ones driving that stonewalling.
Now, with that in your brain, read:
OK, wow! We have questions! Let's review the claims made in that screengrab from Steele's October 2016 briefing with Kavalec and others.
1. Steele still believed, at least as of October 2016, that the pee tape was real.
2. Steele claimed the Russian operation to use stolen hacked materials to sway the election was overseen, at the very top, by Vladimir Putin and his deputies Sergey Ivanov and Dmitry Peskov. Manafort was the go-between with the Trump campaign.
3. Steele claimed Manafort used Peter Aven of Alfa Bank to communicate with the Kremlin, and that those communications were "encrypted via TOR software and run between a hidden server managed by Alfa Bank."
OK HOLD UP, HIT PAUSE!
This briefing with Steele happened October 11, 2016. The first public reporting on the weird Trump Organization server that mostly communicated with Alfa Bank came out October 31, 2016, by Franklin Foer over at Slate, who scooped the New York Times, and it was sourced through computer nerds in America who stumbled upon the server activity and analyzed it. Almost three weeks before that, Chris Steele told US officials Paul Manafort was using dark web shit to communicate with Alfa Bank, run through a hidden server? O RLY?
Here's something we know to be a fact, according to the Mueller Report: Manafort used encrypted communications a lot, and he deleted his communications a lot, and he lied A LOT. Indeed, one of the reasons Mueller was unable to prove a criminal conspiracy beyond a shadow of a doubt is that Manafort lied and hid and deleted his communications. And what did Manafort lie about specifically? What precisely he was doing as he passed secret polling data to the Russians through his Russian spy comrade Konstantin Kilimnik, with whom he met several times during the campaign, notably on August 2, 2016, in New York.
Manafort officially left the campaign in August, after the press started exposing his myriad weird and fucked up connections to Russia. However, Franklin Foer reported that the server activity continued throughout 2016, spiking around the conventions and around other significant election moments, and only settled down once reporters started prying around later in the fall. Which leads us to a funny/curious question! What was Paul Manafort really doing between August 2016, when he "left" the Trump campaign, and the election in November?
This seems like a good time to actually go back and reread Foer's report in Slate, to refresh ourselves on exactly what those computer dorks found when they discovered that server activity:
They concluded that the server was set to accept only incoming communication from a very small handful of IP addresses. A small portion of the logs showed communication with a server belonging to Michigan-based Spectrum Health. [...]
Eighty-seven percent of the DNS lookups involved the two Alfa Bank servers. "It's pretty clear that it's not an open mail server," [Indiana University computer scientist L. Jean] Camp told me. "These organizations are communicating in a way designed to block other people out."
Earlier [in October 2016], the group of computer scientists passed the logs to Paul Vixie. In the world of DNS experts, there's no higher authority. Vixie wrote central strands of the DNS code that makes the internet work. After studying the logs, he concluded, "The parties were communicating in a secretive fashion. The operative word is secretive. This is more akin to what criminal syndicates do if they are putting together a project." Put differently, the logs suggested that Trump and Alfa had configured something like a digital hotline connecting the two entities, shutting out the rest of the world, and designed to obscure its own existence. Over the summer, the scientists observed the communications trail from a distance.
While Paul Manafort remained a free man, we asked many times what the fuck was so secret he was willing to die in prison in order to keep a secret. We wonder if it's what we've suspected all along -- which, we should say, seems to also be what Mueller and his prosecutors suspected. Remember just before the end of the investigation, when Mueller prosecutor Andrew Weissmann specifically said in court that he believed Manafort's passing of internal Rust Belt polling data/models to his Russian spy friend went to "the heart" of what they thought was going on? If Manafort was also secretly doing computers with the Russians -- and maybe somehow with Spectrum Health in Grand Rapids, Michigan, which is according to #GeographyFacts in the Rust Belt -- then ... whoo boy!
Once more, for emphasis before we move on: Franklin Foer had "Trump organization server + Alfa Bank + Spectrum Health," while Chris Steele had "Manafort + Alfa Bank," independent of each other, and that's quite frankly kinda stunning. Foer's sources said the interactions were designed so as to be concealed. Steele said Manafort and Alfa were using TOR software and a hidden server. It sure does appear to be the same story, from two different directions, with two completely different lines of sourcing.
As far as the rest of the claims in that quick summary of what Steele told the US officials in October 2016, let's run through 'em real quick.
4. Steele claimed Manafort and Aven (of Alfa Bank) were both essentially "got" by the Kremlin, in Manafort's case because he was wildly in debt to the Russians. (Like maybe for instance to "Putin's favorite oligarch" Oleg Deripaska, to whom Manafort owed metric shitloads of money? Remember when Manafort emailed Kilimnik in April 2016, asking how he could use his work for the Trump campaign to "get whole" with Deripaska?)
5. Steele claimed Carter Page was totally up to his eyeballs in this shit, and was involved in the GOP platform change on Ukraine.
6. And finally, Steele claimed that at that point, in October of 2016, there wouldn't be much more in the way of WikiLeaks coming from Russia, because "all the best stuff" was out there. And that's exactly what happened. If media coverage of the leaked John Podesta emails in October 2016 had been better, it would have focused on how a hostile foreign power was releasing private emails from Hillary Clinton's campaign manager, and would have taken the time to note that the leaked emails were actually fucking stupid and inconsequential. Oh yeah, also Podesta's risotto recipe.
Now, to be clear, just like the original Steele Dossier was raw intelligence, this new (to us) intel was also raw intelligence, though it had the benefit of coming further along in Chris Steele's investigative process. So at this point, it's exceedingly important for us to try to interpret information like this through the lens of what we do know for a fact, as we've done in this post, cross-referencing with the Mueller Report -- both what Mueller did say, and what he didn't, because Bill Barr hasn't allowed him to.
Using those parameters, we're pretty sure that our only reaction to this is HOLYJESUSFUCK, and we sure as hell know one direction the congressional and journalistic investigations need to go from here.
NO COLLUSION? Sure, you bet.
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