Does Vladimir Putin “own” Donald Trump?
Michael Hayden, former director of both the NSA and CIA, wrote in the Washington Post that Trump was a “polezny durak,” Russian for “useful fool,” a person naïve/gullible enough to be manipulated for propaganda purposes by the Kremlin without even realizing it.
Michael Morell, former acting head of the CIA, wrote in The New York Times that “In the intelligence business, we would say that Mr. Putin had recruited Mr. Trump as an unwitting agent of the Russian Federation.”
Steve Hall, the former head of CIA’s Russia operations, told NPR that CIA officers were “terrified” Trump would burn their sources inside Russia by revealing their names to Putin. The NYT disclosed that two U.S. intelligence officials, one current and one retired, confirmed that human sources in Russia played a crucial role in proving that Russia intervened in our elections.
Russian sources, including Novaya Gazeta, reported that four Russian intelligence officers associated with the Kremlin’s hacking unit have been arrested and accused of spying for the U.S. Putin had one FSB leader arrested in front of his colleagues during a meeting and physically dragged from the room with a bag over his head, according to USA Today. In addition, an FSB general thought to be involved in passing secret information to former MI-6 spy Christopher Steele, who compiled a damaging dossier on Trump’s alleged ties to Putin, was found dead in his car of a “heart attack.”
Such a spy roundup — if that’s what it was — immediately suggests a mole inside the U.S. government, such as FBI agent Robert Hanssen and CIA officer Aldrich Ames, who between them, exposed dozens of American agents in Russia, most of whom were executed.
According to the Washington Post, U.S. intelligence agencies, including the FBI, all concluded that Russia hacked the DNC’s server, and employed cutouts who provided WikiLeaks with thousands of hacked emails. The goal was to discredit democracy, damage Hillary Clinton and get Trump elected.
Despite Trump’s repeated denials, several private firms, including Microsoft, Crowdstrike, and Threat Connect also concluded that Russia intervened in our elections.
The Russians have a history of cyber hacking, in Georgia, Poland, Germany, NATO, Ukraine, and elsewhere. They virtually closed down Estonia in 2007, apparently over Estonia’s removal of a WWII monument to Soviet forces. Russia also hacked the White House, the State Department and the Pentagon.
The U.S. intelligence community also worries about Trump’s national security advisor, Michael Flynn, who was fired for cause as head of DIA by the Obama administration. Flynn is another useful fool who appears regularly on RT, the Kremlin-controlled propaganda outlet. More notoriously, he attended a dinner where he was seated next to Putin. Perhaps not coincidentally, the Russian spy roundup didn’t occur until after Trump and Flynn began receiving detailed security briefings, which could have revealed clandestine U.S. sources.
According to the WSJ, Flynn made a series of phone calls to the Russian ambassador on the same day the Obama administration announced sanctions against Russia as retaliation for interference in U.S. elections. Typical of the Trump team, they lied about the calls for several days, until it became clear that the government had taps of the phone calls.
Astonishingly, Trump’s top advisor is Steve Bannon who has been quoted as saying that he’s a Leninist who wants to destroy the state …”to bring everything crashing down, and destroy all of today’s establishment.”
Based on my extended experience in Russian affairs, including four years in Russia, it is virtually certain that the FSB attempted to compromise Trump while he was in Russia, probably using FSB “swallows.”
The only question is how damaging the material is. Paul Wood, reporting for the BBC, said that FSB sources of former British spy Christopher Steele claimed that Trump had been filmed with a group of prostitutes in the presidential suite of Moscow’s Ritz-Carlton hotel.
Trump has denied being blackmailed by Russian intelligence, but what can account for, as Robert Kuttner expressed it, Trump’s weird and opportunistic alliance with Putin bordering on treason, including his rejection of NATO? Trump seems to have made Vladimir Putin his political hero, perhaps because Putin has perfected what John le Carré once called the “classic, timeless, all-Russian, bare-faced whopping lie,” a practice Trump regularly emulates.
How else to explain Trump’s “bromance” with Putin, a thug who is rehabilitating Josef Stalin, except by such speculation. We know enough, however, to be worried about the pathological liar and Kremlin toady in the White House.
Tom Maertens served as National Security Council director for nonproliferation and homeland defense under presidents Bill Clinton and George W. Bush, and as deputy coordinator for counter-terrorism in the State Department during and after 9/11.
He lives in Mankato.