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#Snowman Series 10 – Truth and Spies

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J.J. PatrickUnited States
#Snowman Series 10 – Truth and Spies
Trump's seedy relationship with Russia takes a darker turn, leaking classified intelligence to spies

Trump has been communicating with Russia for some time, but never has he been left so personally exposed in doing so. 

He appears to be rowing the last lengths of the river to his impeachment single-handed.

Russia denies claims Kislyak is a spy and a recruiter of spies, despite repeated allegations from top intelligence officials.   

On the 10th of May 2017, Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov met with U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson and President Donald Trump at the White House.

Initial reports stated they discussed cooperation on a range of issues and policy areas, with a central focus on Syria. Lavrov gave a confirmation Trump and Russian President Vladimir Putin would be meeting in July, in the first few days of the G20 summit.

One Russian news agency reported that the General Director of Russia’s International Affairs Council, Andrei Kortunov, issued a statement saying the White House meeting was not “simply a polite gesture.”

“Regardless of the importance of the Secretary of State’s role, U.S. foreign policy is created by the president. I think that Trump has a certain message for Putin that he wants to send personally, through Lavrov,” he said.

Lavrov pressed the point it was necessary to agree on some area of policy in advance, in order to ensure “concrete, perceptible results” when the heads of state meet. He also refused to discuss Russia’s alleged interference in the U.S. elections, referring to them as “bacchanalia,” meaning drunken revelries.

Journalists at the conference pressed Lavrov on the dismissal of FBI Director James Comey, asking if it “would influence Russian-American relations,” while Lavrov joked “was he fired? You’re kidding!”

On the evening of the meeting, Putin made a statement that Comey’s dismissal was “America’s domestic affair and Russia has nothing to do with it.”

Lavrov dedicated most of his press conference to Syria, highlighting Washington could contribute towards the creation of de-escalation zones in the country - reminding journalists both superpowers have “mutual understanding about the location of the zones and how they will function.”

“For the U.S. the most important thing is to defeat terror. Here we are in perfect harmony,” he said.

According to Lavrov, he and Trump did not discuss unilateral sanctions introduced by the Obama administration in late 2016, adding “Washington understands the seizure of property belonging to Russian diplomats was wrong.”

Trump also stated he was “pleased with the meeting” and, according to an official White House Press Service statement, the president impressed the need for Russia to “rein in” Assad. “He also raised the possibility of broader cooperation on resolving conflicts in the Middle East and elsewhere,” the statement says.

““Regardless of the importance of the Secretary of State’s role, U.S. foreign policy is created by the president. I think that Trump has a certain message for Putin that he wants to send personally, through Lavrov,” he said.”

According to the Washington Post, during the meeting with Lavrov and Kislyak, Trump “went off-script” and began to give specific information on the Islamic State threat related to the use of laptop computers on aircraft.

Intelligence officials have subsequently told reporters U.S. agencies are “in the process of drawing up plans to expand a ban on passengers carrying laptop computers onto U.S.-bound flights from several countries on conflict zones due to new intelligence about how militant groups are refining techniques for installing bombs in laptops.”

As a measure of the seriousness of the threat assessment, the services are considering banning passengers from several European countries, including Britain, from carrying laptops in the cabin on flights destined for the United States. Washington had, allegedly, informed its allies of these plans.

While the president does have legal powers to declassify intelligence and information, the leak of this specific intelligence has had serious ramifications - the meeting with Lavrov and Kislyak came only one day after he fired FBI Director James Comey, the man leading the investigation into links between Trump, his campaign, and the Kremlin.

Trump's national security adviser, General H.R. McMaster, also present during the meeting, initially gave a statement which said “no intelligence sources or methods were discussed that were not already known publicly” before declining to comment further.

It has since emerged the classified intelligence President Trump disclosed was provided by Israel.

According to sources, one a current and one a former American official familiar with the information, the disclosure throws a further diplomatic spanner in the works of an episode which has drawn the reliability of the White House into question.

Israel has long been one of the United States’ most strategically important allies, operating one of the most complex and highly active espionage networks in the Middle East. It is feared the incident could inhibit this critical intelligence relationship amidst clear risks information could be passed to Iran, a close ally of Russia and also Israel’s main threat actor.

In a statement emailed to The New York Times, Ron Dermer, the Israeli ambassador to the United States, approached the issue politely. “Israel has full confidence in our intelligence-sharing relationship with the United States and looks forward to deepening that relationship in the years ahead under President Trump,” he wrote.

Putin has stated today he is "prepared to provide transcript, not audio recording, of Trump and Lavrov meeting" according to a Kremlin aide.

“It is feared the incident could inhibit this critical intelligence relationship amidst clear risks the information could be passed to Iran, a close ally of Russia and also Israel’s main threat actor.”

General McMaster has since made clear he was not concerned the incident could hinder US Intelligence relations with its partners. “What the president discussed with the foreign minister was wholly appropriate to that conversation and is consistent with the routine sharing of information between the president and any leaders with whom he’s engaged,” he said.

Sean Spicer, the White House press secretary, also declined to answer questions as to whether the White House had made efforts to contact Israel and discuss the disclosure.

Other US officials have since come forwards and told reporters “the intelligence provided by the spy was so sensitive that it was shared only with the US and was conditioned on the source remaining secret.”

One former director of the National Counterterrorism Center, Matt Olsen, spoke on ABC, stating Trump’s disclosures posed “a real threat to future sources of information about plots against us.”

“Russia is not part of the ISIS coalition. They are not our partner,” he added pointedly.

Dan Shapiro, the Former US ambassador to Israel, also told ABC the “careless handling of sensitive information by Trump and his team would inevitably cause elements of Israel’s intelligence service to demonstrate more caution.”

John Sipher, who served in the CIA for almost thirty years, including a Moscow posting in the 1990s and who later ran the agency’s Russia program, commented: “The Russians have the widest intelligence collection mechanism in the world outside of our own.”

“They can put together a good picture with just a few details. They can marry President Trump’s comments with their own intelligence, and intelligence from their allies. They can also deploy additional resources to find out details,” he added.

“Trump’s disclosures posed “a real threat to future sources of information about plots against us…Russia is not part of the ISIS coalition. They are not our partner,”

It has since emerged that, before dismissing the leading law enforcement official, President Trump asked the F.B.I. director James Comey to shut down the federal investigation into his own administration’s Russia links - initially focused on disgraced national security adviser Michael Flynn.

“I hope you can let this go,” the president told Comey, according to a memo shared with close senior colleagues, one of whom read parts of it to a New York Times reporter.

“I hope you can see your way clear to letting this go, to letting Flynn go, he is a good guy. I hope you can let this go,” Trump is alleged to have said.

In a statement, the White House denied the version of events, though they are already under the shadow of allegations of repeated untruths, and of recording official conversations - with Trump having intimated any such tapes may be leaked.

On the 16th of May 2017, Representative Jason Chaffetz, Republican chairman of the House Oversight Committee, demanded the F.B.I. turn over all “memoranda, notes, summaries and recordings” pertaining to Trump and Comey. Such documents, he wrote, “raise questions as to whether the president attempted to influence or impede [the FBI].”

Michael Flynn was dismissed after he privately discussed U.S. sanctions against Russia with the country’s ambassador to the United States during the month before President Trump took office, contrary to public denials by Trump officials.

Flynn’s communications with Sergey Kislyak were interpreted by some senior U.S. officials as an inappropriate (and potentially illegal) signal to the Kremlin on sanctions issues and a significant investigation was triggered with Comey at the helm.

Sally Yates, former Acting Attorney General dismissed by Trump over his immigration measures, told the Trump administration Flynn was compromised. She later told an inquiry hearing she was ignored, and that the Trump team misled the American public over the truth.

She pulled no punches, informing a senate committee about illegal conduct and stood by her evidence afterwards, telling reporters “we had just gone and told them [the White House] that the national security adviser, of all people, was compromised with the Russians and that their vice-president and others had been lying to the American people about it.”

“the national security adviser, of all people, was compromised with the Russians and that their vice-president and others had been lying to the American people about it.”

In March 2017 it was also reported Attorney General Jeff Sessions had spoken twice to Ambassador Kislyak, once in July 2016 and once in September 2016.

At the time, Sessions' was still a US senator sitting on the Senate Armed Services Committee.

During Sessions' Senate Judiciary Committee confirmation hearing in January, he was questioned under oath about "possible contacts between members of President Trump's campaign and representatives of Moscow" and expressed he had no knowledge of any such contact.

The New York Times have also reported that Kislyak met with Michael Flynn and another Trump team member, Jared Kushner, in December 2016 to “establish a line of communication” with the Trump administration.

A significant number of officials within the Trump administration have also been linked to Russia through a number of separate direct connections established by this investigation.

Russia denies claims Kislyak is a spy and a recruiter of spies, despite repeated allegations from top intelligence officials.

Kislyak is pictured with Trump in the Oval Office at the 10th of May meeting.

#trump, #putin, #russia, #comey, #fbi, #flynn, #sessions, #leaks, #white house, #israel, #iran, #syria, #intelligence, #kislyak, #mcmaster, #kushner

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