The following is a guest blog by commenter Mike Sylwester. We've all been very naturally focused on the OIG FISA report, impeachment theater, and so forth. Mike's blog returns us to what I believe are key points for the Barr/Durham investigation. Briefly, Mike argues that there appears to be clear evidence of "collusion" between the authors of the Steele "dossier" and the CIA. To say that that could prove huge if confirmed would be an understatement, given that we know that the "dossier" emerged from the Clinton campaign's oppo research shop at Fusion GPS.
Ushakov was an official in the Russian Government's Presidential Administration (PA). In that position, Ushakov heard various statements of Vladimir Putin and of other PA officials. Ushakov supposedly repeated such statements to Smolenkov, who secretly reported them to the CIA. Ushakov himself was a PA member, but his assistant Smolenkov was not a member.
Smolenkov's reliability is subjected by Carlson to various doubts, which can be read in Carlson's article.
Here I focus on Carlson's suggestion that Steele's Report 111, dated September 14, 2016, seems to indicate that Steele was informed about Ushakov's activities in Putin's Presidential Administration. The Report's relevant text mentioning Ushakov includes the following two paragraphs:
1. Speaking in confidence to a trusted compatriot in mid-September 2016, a senior member of the Russian Presidential Administration (PA) commented on the political fallout from recent western media revelations about Moscow’s intervention, in favour of Donald TRUMP and against Hillary CLINTON, in the US presidential election. The PA official reported that the issue had become incredibly sensitive and that President PUTIN had issued direct orders that Kremlin and government insiders should not discuss it in public or even in private.
2. Despite this, the PA official confirmed, from direct knowledge, that the gist of the allegations was true. PUTIN had been receiving conflicting advice on interfering from three separate and expert groups. On one side had been the Russian ambassador to the US, Sergei KISLYAK and the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, together with an independent and informal network run by presidential foreign policy advisor, Yuri USHAKOV (KISLYAK’s predecessor in Washington) who had urged caution and the potential negative impact on Russia from the operation/s. On the other side was former PA Head, Sergei IVANOV, backed by Russian Foreign Intelligence (SVR), who had advised PUTIN that the pro-TRUMP, anti-CLINTON operation/s would be both effective and plausibly deniable with little blowback. The first group/s had been proven right and this had been the catalyst in PUTIN’s decision to sack IVANOV (unexpectedly) as PA Head in August. His successor, Anton VAINO, had been selected for the job partly because he had not been involved in the US presidential election operation/s.
Based on publicly available information about Smolenkov, the "trusted compatriot" in Steele's Report seems to be Smolenkov, and "the senior member" seems to be Ushakov.
If so, then Paragraph 1 essentially says that Smolenkov heard from Ushakov that Putin had issued direct orders not to discuss Moscow's intervention in favor of Donald Trump. (Despite Putin's direct orders, this information was revealed to Steele.)
Further, Paragraph 2 essentially says that Ushakov confirmed to Smolenkov that Moscow indeed was intervening in favor of Trump. Ushakov told Smolenkov also that Putin was receiving conflicting advice about this interference. In particular, Ushakov was in a group that "urged caution" because of "the potential negative impact on Russia".
Report 111 concludes this the following "Company Comment":
The substance of what was reported by the senior Russian PA official in paras 1 and 2 above, including the reasons for Sergei IVANOV’s dismissal, was corroborated independently by a former top level Russian intelligence officer and Kremlin insider, also in mid-September.
This "former top level Russian intelligence officer and Kremlin insider" surely was Vyacheslav Trubnikov, who was Russia's Intelligence Chief during the years 1996-2000 and who later became Steele's "Source A" in 2016.
Carlson wonders how Steele had learned this information. Did Steele learn it from Smolenkov or from the CIA or from some other source? (Keep in mind that Trubnikov merely "corroborated" the information and so is not Steele' primary source.)
What makes this particularly curious is that by the time the Steele memo was written in mid-September 2016, Brennan had already delivered information on this matter to the White House:
“Early last August, an envelope with extraordinary handling restrictions arrived at the White House. Sent by courier from the CIA, it carried ‘eyes only’ instructions that its contents be shown to just four people: President Barack Obama and three senior aides,” The Washington Post reported on June 23, 2017.
The fact that the CIA information and the Steele dossier contained the same information raises the question of whether the “senior member of the Russian Presidential Administration” mentioned in the dossier is the same as the CIA Russian spy.
This, in turn, would raise the question of how Steele appears to have ended up with the same information as the CIA.
I understand Carlson to suggest that Steele received the Smolenkov-Ushakov information about PA conversations and activities from the CIA.
Now I will go beyond Carlson's article.
Carlson addresses only Report 111, dated September 14, 2016. However, Putin's Presidential Administration is mentioned in eight Reports in Steele's Dossier:
Report 94, dated July 19, 2016
Report 100, dated August 5, 2016
Report 101, dated August 10, 2016
Report 111, dated September 14, 2016
Report 112, dated September 14, 2016
Report 130, dated October 12, 2016
Report 135, dated October 19, 2016
Report 136, dated October 20, 106
All those Dossier Reports were written by Steele before Smolenkov defected from Russia to the USA in June 2017. Surely all the Dossier Reports telling about communications and activities in the Presidential Administration were based on Smolenkov's reports to the CIA. In this regard, Report 111 is distinctive only because it mentions Ushakov.
Surely the CIA officials who knew that Smolenkov -- the assistant of PA member Ushakov -- was a CIA informant recognized that much of the information in the Dossier about the PA came to Steele somehow from Smolenkov.
The first two Dossier Reports that mention Carter Page are Report 94 and Report 95, both of which are dated July 19, 2016.
Report 94 includes the following two paragraphs:
3. Speaking separately, also in July 2016, an official close to Presidential Administration Head, IVANOV, confided in a compatriot that a senior colleague in the Internal Political Department of the PA, [Igor] DIVYEKIN (nfd) also had met secretly with PAGE on his recent visit. Their agenda had included DIVEYKIN raising a dossier of ‘kompromat’ the Kremlin possessed on Democratic presidential rival, Hillary CLINTON, and its possible release to the Republican’s campaign team.
4. However, the Kremlin official close to IVANOV added that s/he believed DIVEYKIN also had hinted (or indicated more strongly) that the Russian leadership also had ‘kompromat’ on TRUMP which the latter should bear in mind in his dealings with them.
Essentially, this means that Ushakov confided to Smolenkov that PA member Divyekin met with Page in Russia in July 2016. In that meeting, PA member Divyekin discussed whether the Russian leadership might release "kompromat" about Hillary Clinton to the Republican campaign team. Ushakov added that the Russian leadership also had "kompromat" about Donald Trump.
Report 95 is not based on information from the Presidential Administration. Rather, it is based on "Source E, an ethnic Russian close associate of Republican US presidential candidate Donald Trump". Source E informed Steele:
... there was a well-developed conspiracy of co-operation between them and the Russian leadership. This was managed on the TRUMP side by the Republican candidate’s campaign manager, Paul MANAFORT, who was using foreign policy advisor, Carter PAGE, and others as intermediaries.
According to a Washington Post, article dated February 7, 2019, Source E is Sergei Millian. The article describe Millian as follows:
Born in Belarus and given the name Siarhei Kukuts, Millian went to college in Minsk, where a Russian-language version of his biography that he posted online said he trained to be a military translator.
He moved to Atlanta in the early 2000s, changed his name to Sergei Millian, and began working in real estate and professional translating, according to friends at the time and his biography. There, he founded a trade group called the Russian American Chamber of Commerce in the USA, which gave him a platform to interact with business and government leaders in the United States and Russia. Who is ‘Source D’? The man said to be behind the Trump-Russia dossier’s most salacious claim.
It also boosted Millian’s profile. In 2011, he was invited to take part in a Russian government-backed effort to bring American entrepreneurs on visits to Moscow. The Post has previously reported that the FBI later investigated the trips as possible influence operations linked to Russian intelligence, although Millian was never implicated. In his organization’s literature and elsewhere, Millian boasted of a relationship with Trump, saying that he had been engaged to sell apartments to rich Russians in the Trump Hollywood condo building in Florida.
On Facebook and in literature for his Russian chamber of commerce, he posted a photo of himself with Trump, snapped at a horse track in Miami in 2007 after he said “mutual associates” introduced them. It is unclear whether they met on any other occasion.
But in April 2016, Millian gave the Russian state-operated news organization RIA Novosti an eyebrow-raising interview. He claimed that after meeting Trump in Miami he went to New York and met Trump’s “right-hand man” — his personal lawyer Michael Cohen — and then signed a contract to sell Trump units in Florida.
“You can say that I was their exclusive broker,” he said, speaking in Russian. “Back then, in 2007-2008, Russians by the dozens were buying apartments in Trump’s buildings in the USA.”
Asked in the Russian interview how often he spoke to Trump or his associates, Millian responded: “The last time was several days ago.”
In an interview in 2016 with ABC News, Millian claimed to have high-level contacts in the Russian government.
Thus, on July 19, 2016, the combination of Report 94 (based on Smolenkov) and Report 95 (based on Millian) supposedly indicated that Manafort had sent Page to Moscow to meet with PA member Divyekin in order to discuss releasing "kompromat" about Clinton to the Republican campaign staff.
Report 134, dated October 18, 2016, provides new information about Page's secret meetings with Sechin and Divyekin in Moscow in early July 2016.
1. Speaking to a trusted compatriot in mid October 2015, a close associate of Rosneft President and PUTIN ally Igor SECHIN elaborated on the reported secret meeting between the latter and Carter PAGE, of US Republican presidential candidate’s foreign policy team, in Moscow in July 2016. The secret had been confirmed to him/her by a senior member of staff, in addition to by the Rosneft President himself. It took place on either 7 or 8 July, the same day or the one after Carter PAGE made a public speech to the Higher Economic School in Moscow.
2. In terms of the substance of their discussion, SECHIN’s associate said that the Rosneft President was so keen to lift personal and corporate western sanctions imposed on the company, that he offered PAGE/TRUMP’s associates the brokerage of up to a 19 per cent (privatised) stake in Rosneft in return. PAGE had expressed interest and confirmed that were TRUMP elected US president, then sanctions on Russia would be lifted.
3. According to SECHIN’s close associate, the Rosneft President had continued to believe that TRUMP could win the US presidency right up to 17 October, when he assessed this was no longer possible, SECHIN was keen to readapt accordingly and put feelers out to other business and political contacts in the US instead.
Report 134 essentially says that in mid-October 2016, Ushakov ["a trusted compatriot"] asked Sechin about Sechin's early-July secret meeting with Page. Ushakov had heard about that secret meeting from "a senior member of [the PA] staff". Having heard that, Ushakov asked Sechin about the meeting, and Sechin himself confirmed to Ushakov that he indeed had met secretly with Page in early July.
Although Report 134 does not mention Divyekin, Report 134 does confirm Report 94's claim that Sechin met with Page in Moscow in early July. If the Sechin-Page meeting was confirmed, then the Divyekin-Page meeting surely happened likewise.
Apparently, Ushakov had not asked Sechin in July 2016 about the meeting. Ushakov did not ask Sechin until October.
However, Ushakov knew about both the Sechin-Page meeting and the Divyekin-Page meetings already in July 2016. In July Ushakov told Smolenkov about both meetings, and so both meetings were mentioned in Report 94, dated July 19, 2016.
In October, 2016, who told Ushakov about the Sechin-Page meeting and the Divyekin-Page meeting? It wasn't Sechin who told Ushakov in July. Reasoning by a process of elimination, it must have been Divyekin who told Ushakov in July 2016. Both Divyekin and Ushakov were PA members, whereas Sechin was not a PA member.
Report 134, dated October 18, 2016, indicates that Ushakov recently had contacted and asked Sechin about the Sechin-Page July meeting. Report 134 does not indicate, however, that in October 2016 Ushakov likewise contacted and asked Divyekin. Ushakov did not do so in October, because he already had been told by Divyekin himself already in July.
How did Steele supposedly know all this information about communications and events that were happening in Putin's Presidential Administration during 2016? This question should be explained in John Durham's future report about the origins of the RussiaGate hoax.