And right out of the gate this morning we have Betsy Woodruff at The Daily Beast with the story that Russian spy Maria Butina's adventures with the NRA were indeed approved by the Kremlin.
The Kremlin has long denied that it had anything to do with the infiltration of the NRA and the broader American conservative movement. A U.S. intelligence report reviewed by The Daily Beast tells a different story.
Alexander Torshin, the Russian central bank official who spent years aggressively courting NRA leaders, briefed the Kremlin on his efforts and recommended they participate, according to the report. Its existence and contents have not previously been reported.
While there has been speculation that Torshin and his protegée, Maria Butina, had the Kremlin’s blessing to woo the NRA—and federal prosecutors have vaguely asserted that she acted “on behalf of the Russian federation”—no one in the White House or the U.S. intelligence community has publicly stated as much. Senior Russian government officials, for their part, have strenuously distanced themselves from Butina’s courtship of the NRA, which she did at Torshin’s direction.
The report, on the other hand, notes that the Russian Ministry of Foreign Affairs was fine with Torshin’s courtship of the NRA because the relationships would be valuable if a Republican won the White House in 2016.
“This reporting indicates that Alexander Torshin was working with the blessing of the Kremlin, at a minimum,” one European intelligence official told The Daily Beast. The official added that this reporting is consistent with his group’s understanding of how the Kremlin operates.
“The NRA is quite powerful, so when you look to influence U.S. politics, you should consider them as a convenient target,” the official added.
The report, published last year, is based on conversations that happened in 2015, before NRA leaders visited Moscow on a trip arranged by Torshin and Butina. The document does not specifically name the NRA or the Republican Party, but its context makes clear it is discussing those two American organizations. (American intelligence reports generally do not name U.S. persons or organizations for privacy and legal reasons.)
According to the report, Torshin suggested that Russian officials use the NRA to reach out to politically active Americans. Torshin, then a deputy governor at Russia’s central bank, noted the gun rights group’s influence in U.S. politics. He told the Kremlin about his contacts in the NRA, including conversations and meetings in the United States, and suggested that Kremlin officials scrutinize how some people affiliated with the group viewed relations between the U.S. and Russia.
The report notes that Russian officials discussed having their embassy in Washington participate in the work of courting the NRA. Kremlin officials also discussed preparations for NRA members’ upcoming trip to Moscow. Torshin recommended that someone from President Vladimir Putin’s executive office, meaning the group of people who support his day-to-day activities, meet with the group.
“My assessment of what was happening with Torshin and Butina and the NRA was that the Russians decided, a good period of time before 2016, to run an influence operation here in the U.S. with a couple of different goals,” said Steve Hall, who spent 30 years in the CIA and oversaw its Russia operations. “The obvious goal was the one the intelligence community assessed back in 2016, which was to help Donald Trump win and increase the likelihood that Hillary Clinton would lose. In addition, they wanted to create as much chaos in our democracy as possible.”
And guess what? It worked.
It worked better than anyone in the Kremlin could have possibly dreamed. Moscow wants the US drowning in chaos so that Putin can make his moves internationally, and right now America is six feet under and sinking.
Putin couldn't be happier. And If Watergate journalist Carl Bernstein is right, then the Mueller report details all of this and more.
Legendary journalist Carl Bernstein has said that he’s been told that special counsel Robert Mueller’s report will show how President Donald Trump helped Russia “destabilize the United States.”
Bernstein, who is renowned for his coverage of the Watergate scandal that led to the resignation of former President Richard Nixon, appeared on CNN’s Reliable Sources on Sunday to discuss two bombshell reports released this weekend, one from The New York Times and one from The Washington Post, which revealed new details about whether or not Trump and his aides have colluded with Russia.
The Post reported that Trump has gone to “extraordinary lengths” to conceal direct conversations he has had with Russian President Vladimir Putin. The Times article revealed that the FBI opened a counterintelligence investigation into Trump after he fired former bureau director James Comey in 2017, suspecting the president could be working on behalf of Russia. Trump has angrily denied allegations that he worked with Russia and has regularly attacked the media for reporting on the investigation. But Bernstein slammed Trump’s dismissal of the probe.
“This is about the most serious counterintelligence people we have in the U.S. government saying, ‘Oh, my God, the president’s words and actions lead us to conclude that somehow he has become a witting, unwitting, or half-witting pawn, certainly in some regards, to Vladimir Putin,'” Bernstein explained during his appearance on Reliable Sources .
“From a point of view of strength… rather, he has done what appears to be Putin’s goals. He has helped Putin destabilize the United States and interfere in the election, no matter whether it was purposeful or not,” the journalist added. He then explained that he knew from his own high-level sources that Mueller’s report would discuss this assessment.
“And that is part of what the draft of Mueller’s report, I’m told, is to be about,” he said. “We know there has been collusion by [former national security adviser Michael] Flynn. We know there has been collusion of some sort by [Trump’s former campaign chairman Paul] Manafort. The question is, yes, what did the president know and when did he know it?”
Stay tuned, folks. This is where things now become the stuff of American historical legend. Trump knows he has lost the endgame, now the only question is how much damage he does to America and the world before he goes out.