A pattern of contacts between the campaign of then-candidate Donald Trump and people connected to the FBI, CIA, and other Western intelligence agencies suggest a sting operation to manufacture evidence of collusion between the campaign and Russia, according to a former FBI agent.
“What appear to have been repeated attempts to implicate the Trump campaign, in some sort of quid pro quo arrangement with the Russians who claimed to have ‘dirt’ on Hillary [Clinton], look like efforts to manufacture evidence against members of the Trump campaign or create pretexts to investigate it,” former agent Mark Wauck told RealClearInvestigations.
At least five people contacted Trump campaign staffers and volunteers and discussed or offered compromising information on Clinton linked to Russia. Yet there’s no evidence the info was provided or even existed.
The first was Joseph Mifsud, a Maltese academic closely affiliated with a spy school frequented by national security and intelligence officials of Western nations, including the United States, the UK, and Italy.
Around April 26, 2016, Mifsud told volunteer adviser to the Trump campaign George Papadopoulos that “the Russians” had “dirt” on rival presidential candidate Hillary Clinton and “thousands” of her emails, according to Papadopoulos’s guilty plea. Papadopoulos had tried to downplay his talks with Mifsud when interviewed by the FBI, thus perjuring himself.
Mifsud went into hiding after his name was outed by the media.
The second was Alexander Downer, then-Australian ambassador to London.
On May 6, 2016, shortly after Trump secured the GOP candidacy, Downer’s counselor Erika Thompson contacted Papadopoulos and asked him to meet Downer, The Daily Caller reported. Around May 10, the three met at a restaurant in London. After some drinks, Papadopoulos told Downer that the Russians had damaging information on Clinton.
“It is unclear whether Mr. Downer was fishing for that information,” The New York Times reported.
Downer reported the conversation to Canberra “a day or two after” as “it seemed quite interesting,’’ he told The Australian.
After July 22, when Wikileaks started publishing emails stolen from the Democratic National Committee (DNC) server, Joe Hockey, Australian ambassador to the United States, passed the info from Downer to the FBI, thus prompting the opening of the investigation into Trump-Russia links on July 31, based on reports in The Sydney Morning Herald and The New York Times.
That timeline, however, was shattered by later revelations.
A “diplomatic source” told The Wall Street Journal that Downer “at some point” delivered the info straight to the U.S. Embassy in London, where it was obtained by then-chargé d’affaires Elizabeth Dibble, who previously served as Clinton’s principal deputy assistant secretary at the U.S. State Department.
Downer is also personally tied to Clinton, as he once arranged a $25 million donation to the Clinton Foundation from the Australian government for AIDS prevention and education efforts.
The third was Henry Greenberg, who, in late May 2016, contacted Trump campaign staffer Michael Caputo and offered unspecified damaging information on Clinton. The offer was rebuffed at a May 29, 2016, meeting with Trump campaign associate Roger Stone after Greenberg demanded $2 million for the info, Stone told The Washington Post.
Caputo later hired a private investigator, who collected court records and media articles that revealed Greenberg’s extensive criminal record in the United States and Russia—and his ties to the FBI.
“I cooperated with the FBI for 17 years, often put my life in danger,” Greenberg said in an Aug. 18, 2015, court declaration under oath.
The court papers showed an FBI agent repeatedly brokered Greenberg’s entry into the United States on a special visa for people assisting law enforcement.
Greenberg said in the declaration that he stopped working with the FBI in 2013, but the private investigator noted that it “strains credulity” that Greenberg would be allowed to stay in the country unless he was shielded from deportation by a deal with the government.
The fourth was Natalia Veselnitskaya, a Russian lawyer tied to Fusion GPS, the company retained by the Clinton campaign and DNC to put together the infamous Steele dossier on alleged Trump–Russia relations, which was characterized by then-FBI Director James Comey as “salacious and unverified.”
On June 3, 2016, Veselnitskaya told Russian oligarch Aras Agalarov that she had “official documents and information that would incriminate Hillary [Clinton] and her dealings with Russia” that “would be very useful to” Trump, according to an email to Donald Trump Jr. from colorful music industry publicist Rob Goldstone, who was informed of Veselnitskaya’s offer the same day by his pop star client—and Agalarov’s son—Emin.
The Agalarovs previously worked with Trump on the 2013 Ms. Universe Pageant held near Moscow, and that’s how Trump Jr. knew Goldstone. Trump Jr. testified to Congress that he didn’t know if Goldstone’s message was credible, but still agreed to meet Veselnitskaya, whom he only knew as “the Russian lawyer.”
Trump Jr. and Veselnitskaya met on June 9, 2016, in Trump Tower. Veselnitskaya started to talk about “individuals connected to Russia supporting or funding” Clinton and the DNC, but then switched her pitch to voicing objection to the Magnitsky Act, under which a number of prominent Russians were sanctioned for human rights abuses. Goldstone later said he didn’t know this was Veselnitskaya’s goal and that he apologized to Trump Jr. for wasting his time.
Veselnitskaya was aided in her quest against the Magnitsky Act by Fusion GPS. She met with the firm’s founder, Glenn Simpson, hours before her Trump Tower meeting, and a day or two after, Simpson testified to Congress. He said he didn’t know about the Trump Tower meeting until it was reported by the media.
The fifth was Stefan Halper, a Cambridge University professor with links to the CIA and British intelligence. He was de facto outed in the media as an FBI informant in the Trump–Russia investigation.
Halper met with Carter Page, a volunteer adviser to the Trump campaign, at a Cambridge symposium held July 11–12, 2016. Page had just returned from a trip to Russia a few days before that and said he remained in contact with Halper for months to come, The Daily Caller reported.
Halper also, on Sept. 2, 2016, offered Papadopulos $3,000 and a paid trip to London for writing a paper on a gas field in the Mediterranean Sea. Papadopoulos accepted and flew to London, where he met Halper and his assistant, The Daily Caller reported.
During the meeting, Halper asked, “George, you know about hacking the emails from Russia, right?” Papadopoulos told Halper he didn’t know anything about emails or Russian hacking, and Halper dropped the topic.
Former FBI agent Marc Ruskin, a columnist for The Epoch Times, said that if the FBI indeed baited the Trump campaign with promises of Clinton dirt, it would be an entrapment and therefore inadmissible in a criminal case. The Trump–Russia investigation, however, seems to be run as a counterintelligence investigation, which requires less of a probable cause to launch, he explained.
He said it could also be that a third party entrapped members of the campaign and fed the resulting info to the FBI as legitimate intelligence.
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