Colluding with Foreign Spies–It Apparently Ain’t the Trumps by Publius Tacitus


When it comes to meeting with foreign spies to dish dirt on a Presidential candidate (or a President elect), John McCain is more at fault than anyone connected to Donald Trump. McCain was directly involved in spreading unverified slanderous material regarding President-elect Donald Trump as he consorted with operatives linked to a foreign government–in this case, the United Kingdom.

This should give Lindsay Graham pause after watching his his exchange with FBI nominee Christopher Wray at Wednesday's Senate Judiciary hearing. Graham, who rhetorically fell on a fainting couch overwhelmed by outrage from the news that an obscure Russian lawyer had sought a meeting with Donald Trump Jr. in order to dish dirt on Hillary Clinton, admonished the FBI nominee to deal harshly with his colleagues on the following:

“… So here’s what I want you to tell every politician: If you get a call from somebody suggesting that a foreign government  wants to help you by disparaging your opponent, tell us all to call the FBI.”

But Donald Trump Jr. is not guilty of doing this. Instead, it is Senator John McCain. He is the one who was fooling around with a foreign intelligence organization. 

What did McCain do? He twice received material generated by a foreign intelligence operative and passed this along as if it was valuable, verified intelligence. Here is the proof, thanks to Rowan Scarborough of the Washington Times.

Aleksej Gubarev, a Cypriot based chief executive of the network solutions firm XBT Holdings, filed suit against Christopher Steele and Orbis Business Intelligence Ltd, for defamation over their role in the publication of an unproven dossier (which appeared in Buzzfeed) on President Donald Trump’s purported activities involving Russia and allegations of Russian interference during last year’s U.S. election.

The businessman, Aleksej Gubarev, claims he and his companies were falsely linked in the dossier to the Russia-backed computer hacking of Democratic Party figures. Gubarev, 36, also is seeking unspecified damages from Buzzfeed and its top editor, Ben Smith, in a parallel lawsuit filed in Miami. 
Lawyers for Christopher Steele and Orbis Business Intelligence in the United Kingdom filed a response with the British court. Rowan Scarborough obtained a copy of the document and posted it on-line in April. The defense document is both illuminating and damning (I don't know how I missed this when it came out in April). This is like a statement under oath and it presents the following facts:
1. Orbis Business Intelligence was engaged by Fusion GPS sometime in early June 2016 to prepare a series of confidential memorandum based on intelligence concerning Russian efforts to influence the U.S. Presidential election process and links between Russia and Donald Trump (the first memo was dated 20 June 2016).
3. Senator John McCain, accompanied by David Kramer (a Senior Director at Senator McCain's Institute for International Leadership), met in London with an Associate of Orbis, former British Ambassador Sir Andrew Wood, to arrange a subsequent meeting with Christopher Steele in order to read the now infamous Steele Dossier. 
4. David Kramer and Christopher Steele met in Surrey on 28 November 2016, where Kramer was briefed on the contents of the memos.
5. Once Senator McCain and David Kramer returned to the United States, arrangements were made for Fusion GPS to provide Senator McCain hard copies of the memoranda.
6. After Donald Trump was elected, Christopher Steele prepared an additional memorandum (dated 13 December 2016) that made the following claims:
  • Michael Cohen held a secret meeting in Prague, Czechoslovakia in August 2016 with Kremlin operatives.
  • Cohen, allegedly accompanied by 3 colleagues (Not Further Identified), met with Oleg SOLODUKHIM to discuss on how deniable cash payments were to be made to hackers who had worked in Europe under Kremlin direction against the Clinton campaign and various contingencies for covering up these operations and Moscow's secret liaison with the Trump team more generally.
  • In Prague, Cohen agreed (sic) contingency plans for various scenarios to protect the operation, but in particular what was to be done in the event that Hillary Clinton won the Presidency.
  • Sergei Ivanov's associate claimed that payments to hackers had been made by both Trump's team and the Kremlin.

[Note–Michael Cohen denies he was ever in Prague.]

7. Christopher Steele passed a copy of the December memo to a senior UK Government national security official and to Fusion GPS (via encrypted email) with the instruction to give a hard copy to Senator McCain via David Kramer.

Sometime between December 14, 2016 and December 31, 2016, Senator McCain passed this salacious material to FBI director,  James Comey. 

As I pointed out in my previous piece (Trump Jr. Emails Prove No Collusion . . .), the Steele Dossier now stands completely discredited because the Trump Jr. emails provide prima facie evidence that there was no regular, sustained contact with Kremlin operatives. If there had been then there was no need to meet with an unknown lawyer peddling anti-Hillary material that, per the Steele Dossier, already had been delivered to the Trump team.

The role of Fusion GPS in this whole sordid affair needs to be thoroughly investigated. Circumstantial evidence opens them to charges of facilitating and enabling sedition. What they did appears to go beyond conventional opposition research and dirty tricks. Spreading a lie that Donald Trump and his team are Russian operatives crosses a line and, as we have witnessed over the last six months, roiled and disrupted the American political system.

McCain is not the only one guilty here. The work of Fusion GPS was paid for by unnamed Democrats (and one unnamed Republican). And this is not the only instance of collusion with a foreign intelligence organization. Hillary Clinton and her campaign reportedly consorted with Ukrainian operatives:

Ukrainian government officials tried to help Hillary Clinton and undermine Trump by publicly questioning his fitness for office. They also disseminated documents implicating a top Trump aide in corruption and suggested they were investigating the matter, only to back away after the election. And they helped Clinton’s allies research damaging information on Trump and his advisers, a Politico investigation found.

You can read the full story here. The hysteria on the part of Democrats over alleged Russian meddling and collusion with the Trumps shows a growing potential for blowback. As more actual evidence emerges of anti-trumpets receiving intelligence and sharing that intelligence in underhanded back channels, the greater the risk that public attention will hone in on the real actions as opposed to unsubstantiated allegations. Such a development would leave the Democrats very vulnerable and very exposed.

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14 Responses to Colluding with Foreign Spies–It Apparently Ain’t the Trumps by Publius Tacitus

  1. steve says:

    Not being a Hillary fan, I would be quite happy if she ended up in jail over stuff like this too. (Bonus points if they can grab Bill.) I am just not sure that whatever she did justifies actions taken by the Trump campaign. Same with McCain, but he wasn’t running for POTUS so not sure of the relevance here.
    “Spreading a lie that Donald Trump and his team are Russian operatives crosses a line and, as we have witnessed over the last six months, roiled and disrupted the American political system.”
    Just can’t bring myself to get worked up over this when the guy who pursued the birther claims is the victim this time. To be sure, one bad deed does not justify another, but if there was any line, it was crossed a long time ago.

  2. iowa steve says:

    Yeah, Trump’s birtherism was odious but I don’t see the equivalence between that and the current Russiaphobia.
    The latter is an effort to assert US power over the legitimate interests of a nuclear-armed Russia, to continue to act provocatively against Russia, and to kill any attempts at a rapprochement. Birtherism crossed a line of political rhetoric, but the efforts of neocons in tying Trump’s hands regarding peaceful relations with Russia is crossing a far more dangerous line.
    Birtherism was one of many things that discredited Trump as a huckster from receiving my vote. Warmongering, among other matters, also disqualified Hillary.

  3. Anna says:

    The whole anti-Trump bruha-ha has been about his alleged collusion with a foreign government. Here we have a documented case of a collusion of clintonistas with the foreign intelligence organization (UK) and foreign government (Ukraine). The “progressives” (including McCain and the most rabid ziocons) have been waling like sirens about alleged “treason.” Well. It seems that their wish was heard.
    This is not about Trump. This is about the law.
    “…if there was any line, it was crossed a long time ago.”
    Sigh. Obama’s “we scam” was a powerful instrument of breeding both lawlessness and cynicism. i

  4. Fred says:

    “Just can’t bring myself to get worked up over this…”
    Subverting the constitutional order is a-ok if the guy duly elected is a jerk. What a wonderful standard of conduct.

  5. PT,
    There is a further lawsuit against BuzzFeed, brought by the Alfa Group oligarchs, Mikhail Fridman, Petr Aven, and German Khan. The summons, dated 26 May 2017 is at
    Also, a report on ‘McClatchy’ on 11 July, entitled ‘John McCain faces questions in Trump-Russia dossier case’, linked to the response of Steele and Orbis dated 18 May to the request by Gubarev’s lawyers for further information in response to the ‘Defence’ in the London suit to which you linked.
    (See .)
    Whether the fact that the lawyer who prepared the response, Nicola Cain, was until recently a senior barrister at the BBC is of any relevance I do not know.
    There is a lot in this which is not at the moment making a great deal of sense. It is absolutely basic journalistic ‘tradecraft’ to get a piece like the dossier ‘lawyered’ before publication. The question in my day would have been ‘is it a fair business risk?’
    A lawyer competent in the law of defamation – as Ms Cain clearly is – would I think have almost certainly said that the memorandum on the Alfa oligarchs was in no way a ‘fair business risk.’
    Moreover, it is hard to see any compelling reason why it should not have simply been omitted from the published version of the dossier – particularly as this would not have materially reduced the ‘information operations’ impact of the document.
    As to the reference to Gubarev, a simple redaction would have reduced the risk of his suing to zero, and again, would not have materially reduced the impact of the dossier.
    Indeed, even if the BuzzFeed journalists are amateurish, former WSJ journalists like those who run Fusion – and one of the company’s partners, Thomas Catan, is also a former ‘Financial Times’ journalist – should have been aware they were on a sticky wicket without needing to consult a lawyer.
    At the moment, both sets of legal proceedings are a hostage to fortune, for many reasons, including the possibility that they could make people for the first time actually notice that Sir Robert Owen’s report into the death of Alexander Litvinenko is a flagrant cover-up.
    Although the claims made about Steele’s involvement in that affair are a hopeless mess of contradictions, what would seem reasonably clear is that he was a key figure in orchestrating proceedings. (Whether Fusion were involved, at the American end, is an interesting question.)
    Perhaps unsurprisingly, we end up with a situation where people are stabbing each other in the back. So Steele is trying to rescue himself, by suggesting that the memoranda were not intended for publication at all, and that the reason for their publication was a violation of a confidentiality agreement by Fusion.
    Meanwhile, the former British Moscow Ambassador Sir Andrew Wood has already directly contradicted the ‘Defence’, claiming that, contrary to what it says, he was never an ‘associate’ of Orbis.
    (See .)
    In Britain, when the intelligence services make an unholy mess of things, it is usually possible to find the right kind of judge, or former senior official, to apply the appropriate degree of ‘whitewash’. It was Lord Hutton’s application of a lavish quantity of this substance to the Joint Intelligence Committee, MI6, and the Blair Government in his inquiry into the death of Dr David Kelly which played a non-trivial role to reducing the BBC to its present status as a kind of imitation of the Brezhnev-era Radio Moscow.
    The acceptance of patently fabricated evidence by Owen took the ‘whitewash’ process to new heights. It would seem to me unlikely that those involved are optimistic that, by selecting the right kind of judge and organising another propaganda ‘barrage’ on the BBC and other outlets, they can contain the damage done by the lawsuits brought over the dossier. But I could be wrong.

  6. Sam Peralta says:

    In Britain, when the intelligence services make an unholy mess of things, it is usually possible to find the right kind of judge, or former senior official, to apply the appropriate degree of ‘whitewash’.
    This is exactly what breeds cynicism. I don’t believe it is any different in the US as the judiciary always gives a pass when the “state secrets” defense is mounted. This is a perfect legal doctrine as it can be used to cover up all kinds of malfeasance and misfeasance. There’s a reason why support exists for whistleblowers like Snowden and Wikileaks among the general public.
    What was the reaction of the average person in Britain to the Lord Hutton “inquiry”?
    I continue to be baffled by the Trump Administration’s response to the continued attacks by former and possibly current high officials in the IC. There seems to be no overt investigation by the AG. They seem to be just reacting as the media go to town manufacturing hysteria.

  7. Greco says:
    Apparently the Russian lawyer who met with Don Jr was lobbying on behalf of a Russian oligarch who was sanctioned as a result of the Magnitsky Act.
    That same oligarch was also faced with a $230 million fine for money laundering. He tried to cut a deal back in 2015 whereupon he would act as an informant to US authorities. The $230 million fine was later reduced to only $6 million days before his case was set for trial this past May.

  8. blowback says:

    What subversion is that? Nothing came of Donald Jr’s stupidity but there were real effects from the Fusion GPS garbage. As for Trump making gooey eyes at Putin, it was one part of his election platform that Trump was clear and open about and as the president pretty much gets to decide foreign policy, rather than McCain, Graham, the Clintonists, etc. so what?
    Which reminds me what about all those dirty little wars, Libya, Syria, Yemen, etc that Obama and the Clintonist queen involved the US in on the basis of an AUM signed back in 2001, and how was Gadaffi, Assad and the Houthis, all sworn enemies of the jihadists, “associated force” of those responsible for 9/11.

  9. Anna says:

    “Sir Robert Owen’s report into the death of Alexander Litvinenko is a flagrant cover-up.”
    This is in addition to attracting more attention to Magnitsky Act (and to a documentary by Nekrasov), and, by association, to another important documentary, “Two hundreds years together” by Solzhenitsyn. Both authors used to be the darlings of the west for their harsh critique of the Soviet Union (by Solzhenitsyn) and Putin (by Nekrasov). No publishing house in the US and UK dares to publish “Two hundreds years together,” and no western country dares to show “The Magnitsky Act – Behind The Scenes,” because the presented facts are not fitting the ziocons’ sensibilities.

  10. DianaLC says:

    We can argue the merits of a Trump presidency all we want. We can continue to be distracted by new intelligence about shenanigans during the presidential election until Trump’s first term is up. That is the plan.
    I understand that foreign governments–and probably mostly Russia–try desperately to influence our elections in their favor. Just as I understand that our government officials do the same in foreign elections. It’s disgusting behavior for someone who really, really believes the high principles on which our government was founded. I admit it: I am a Pollyanna in that regard.
    But I also KNOW my tendencies to be more idealistic than realistic in regard to human nature. At my age, the reality of human nature has caused me more heartbreak than I care to remember.
    Therefore, I have to prioritize my worries. And so, here again, I am with PT on this issue. McCain is the bigger jerk. In my opinion, he can’t stand it that more Americans voted for Trump than voted for McCain (this American included–though I did hold my nose and vote for McCain simply because my stomach would not take voting for BHO. I was not a birther, but I was fully aware of things in regard to his past that I didn’t like and his ideology that I despised and his friendships with people I found reprehensible. I could go on, but won’t).
    The people I admire the most are, in many cases, people who did champion Trump from the beginning. I was originally flabbergasted by that fact. I was, and still am, a Cruz person. But…..I am also an American and do put much faith in the everyday, working, Americans who live in the Middle, where I live. These are truly the “salt of the earth” and the “light of the world” people. Their votes were given mostly because, I think, Trump declared that he wanted to “drain the swamp.” We knew what that meant. We know now that avoiding the machinations of swamp people is harder than we might have guessed. So I am willing to give the Trump boys some grace, but not the smarmy “bomb, bomb, bomb. Bomb, bomp Iran” McCain.
    Nothing came from this juvenile and inept attempt to “collude.” Let’s forget it, get the swamp drained and the leaks plugged and get on with making campaign promises come true. Take the NYT and WaPo copies and find some way to use them for good: birdcage liners, shredded packaging stuffing, even cat litter. Let CNN become a memory as you avoid watching it or any news story about it. Heck, don’t even watch Fox except to get the news without listening to the commentary. Write your senators and representatives about your views of the issues; then go on with leading good American lives, while saying your daily prayers to the only One who is in charge.

  11. steve says:

    A jerk who was trying to subvert the constitutional order in his own way, or maybe you have a better explanation for why he pursued the birther claim so heavily for so long?

  12. I'veBeenANaughtyBoy says:

    Slightly OT but mentioned by Steve & Iowa Steve above. I watched an hour or so long You Tube video 3 or 4 months ago about how Sheriff Joe Arpio (??sp) had got a couple of investigators to look into the Obama birth Cert brouhaha & to try & put it to bed, one way or another. The result was what I considered to be (I am not any expert in document forensics)a pretty convincing explanation of how the Birth Cert that the White House put forward was a forgery & how it had been falsified. They even had tracked down (& named the woman)the birth cert that Obamas had been based on. It was convincing. The other thing that sold the investigation to me as being genuine was there was nothing – nothing, in the MSM about it. I took that to mean that they didn’t want to try & debunk it as it would attract attention to the video. I didn’t pay over much attention to the scandal back when, & only watched the vid as I was laid up that day. Since then I’ve also come across a “Barry Soetoro” foreign student I.D. card from Columbia U with a young Obama pictured on it.

  13. IssacNewton says:

    I agree that Birtherism was an unethical strategy (e.g., when did you stop molesting children). I would point out the Hillary Clinton used this as an issue against Obama in 2008. She published photos of him in native african garb and had her surrogetes us this against up through the Democrat Convention. It was a strategy of both Trump and Clinton.

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