The Trump-Russia Web – Part 9: Fusion GPS

The Trump-Russia Web – Part 9: Fusion GPS

Fusion GPS

(Full Transcript of Senate Testimony – 312 pages)
(Full Transcript of House Testimony – 165 pages)


Disclaimer: This is a summary of part of Glenn Simpson’s testimony before the Senate Judiciary Committee on August 17, 2017 and before the House Intelligence Committee on November 14, 2017. The information below was presented by Glenn Simpson in his testimony, and is not being represented here as either fact or as the opinion of the webmaster unless specifically stated. All statements and assertions should be read as if prefaced by “Glenn Simpson states that …” Any content that I add will be surrounded by [brackets] and will likely include a link or reference to the source.


Who is Fusion GPS?

The following are details of how Glenn Simpson described his company, Fusion GPS.

Fusion GPS (the Washington DC trade name of Simpson’s company Bean LLC) is a small research, strategy and consulting firm based in Washington DC, with approximately 12 employees. The company handles a small number of projects each year. Their clients are mainly corporations and law firms, but they occasionally do research for major political campaigns as well, although political work is not their “niche.”

Fusion primarily collects public record information, sifts through it to determine which information is relevant to their client, and analyzes that information. Their law firm clients, who prefer clear, documented evidence that will be useful to them in a court of law, appreciate Fusion’s focus on document-and-data-based research. Fusion also interacts with the press regularly. Fusion typically responds to inquiries from media instead of actively sending out information, although they also sometimes pitch stories and send out press releases when their clients ask them to.

Fusion’s process is generally not directed by the client: rather than being told to find information that will result in the answer that the client wants, Fusion gathers as much information and data on the given topic, determines what that information might mean and/or what questions it might raise, and then goes in the direction that the data points them. Fusion makes clear to their clients up front that this is how they operate. Simpson states, “if you predetermine the result that you’re looking for, you tend to miss things.”

Fusion is hired to do “reliable treatments” of a subject – to produce accurate information, positive or negative, that can help their client understand the person, business or event that they are dealing with. The goal is not to do a “hit piece,” even for political clients. That does not mean that some information gathered will not be unflattering to the subject: it means that Fusion believes the information that they gather – flattering or unflattering – is accurate. It does not serve Fusion’s clients well to be given an inaccurate understanding of the subject being researched.

Fusion gathers facts, which Simpson described as “provable facts,” “established facts,” and occasionally “factual allegations.” Simpson makes a distinction between the first two, which are objectively verifiable, and allegations, which are unconfirmed.

Because Fusion’s clients are often attorneys, and attorneys’ clients are not always honest with the attorneys, one of the first things that Fusion does in analyzing their gathered information and data is to try to assess whether the attorney’s client’s story matches with known facts. Much of Fusion’s work is described as “decision support” – helping Fusion’s client learn what the facts are so that the client can decide how best to proceed.

Fusion has a small staff, and intentionally chooses researchers who do not have strong partisan leanings, because “ideological prisms are not helpful for doing research.” Fusion occasionally hires subcontractors for tasks that do not fall under their areas of expertise. In order to ensure the integrity of the information that Fusion provides, all Fusion subcontractors (as well as Fusion themselves) sign a non-disclosure agreement before being engaged for a project: in general, this means that nobody working for Fusion on a project may discuss the project outside of Fusion, and Fusion does not discuss one client’s project with another client. To further ensure the integrity of the information that Fusion takes in, Fusion does not let subcontractors on a given project know of each other’s existence. Fusion often does not even let subcontractors know who the client is unless Fusion believes that there may be a need to verify that the subcontractor does not have any conflict of interest.

Clients generally hire Fusion for 30 days at a time: at the end of each 30 days, the client gets a report with Fusion’s findings, and if they want more, they sign up for another 30 days. When Fusion completes a project, they are often asked to hand over all copies of the documentation for the case so that the client can ensure that it has been disposed of. Simpson said that he could not answer whether the Steele dossier was handed over to the client.


Read more of this special series:
The Trump-Russia Web


 

 

The Trump-Russia Web – Part 8: The Steele Dossier

The Trump-Russia Web – Part 8: The Steele Dossier

The Steele Dossier

(Full 32-Page Text of Steele Dossier)


Background

Christopher Steele, a former British intelligence officer, was hired by Fusion GPS to gather “human intelligence” on Trump’s business practices and connections in Russia. The ultimate purpose of this research was to help Hillary Clinton’s Presidential Campaign. Steele’s research took the form of 17 memos that came to be known as the “Steele dossier” or the “Trump dossier.”

Steele, who had been the MI6’s top “Russianist” but who had been outed by a former colleague as a British spy, chose to do his research from outside of Russia by hiring subcontractors whom he believed to be able to gather good intelligence for him by talking informally with key Russian government insiders. Steele would filter out what he believed to be disinformation and then pass the information on in his memos to Glenn Simpson at Fusion GPS.

The detailed summary below of the Steele dossier puts the memos in what is likely their proper chronological order based on the Bates numbers (the memos appear to be out of sequence in the Buzzfeed document). The date of memo #2 otherwise makes no sense.

A likely explanation for the gaps in the Bates numbers is that Steele or his company used the other numbers for other projects.


Disclaimer: The information below was compiled by former British intelligence officer Christopher Steele between June-December, 2016, as part of an investigation into Trump’s business practices and connections in Russia. The research involved Steele paying his trusted contacts in Russia to informally interview people likely to have relevant info. Steele and is not being represented here as either fact or as the opinion of the webmaster unless specifically stated. All statements and assertions should be read as if prefaced by “Steele states that his sources tell him …” Any content that I add will be surrounded by [brackets] and will likely include a link or reference to the source.


Steele_Christopher-CROP
Christopher Steele (Photo: New York Times)

The Memos

Memo #1
June 20, 2016
2016/080

  • At the direction of Putin, the Russian government has been “cultivating and supporting” Donald Trump for at least five years with the goal of sowing discord in the U.S. and in the Transatlantic Alliance in general.
  • The Kremlin has also provided Trump with intelligence on Hillary Clinton for several years.
  • The Kremlin has a dossier of decades of kompromat on Hillary Clinton, primarily in the form of private (bugged/intercepted) conversations in which she contradicts her public positions on issues.
  • The dossier on Clinton is managed by chief Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov on instructions from Putin.
  • None of the Clinton dossier has been made available outside of Russia or to the Trump Campaign.
  • The Kremlin has tried to develop kompromat on Trump over the years by tempting him with highly profitable real estate and business deals in Russia, but Trump has never gone through with a deal there.
  • The Kremlin has nonetheless successfully developed kompromat on Trump in the form of a videotape of him engaged in an embarrassing sex act with multiple prostitutes in the Presidential Suite of the Moscow Ritz Carlton in 2013.
  • The Kremlin believes that over the years, it has developed sufficient kompromat to successfully blackmail Trump.

Memo #2
July 26, 2015
[based on Bates numbers, I believe that the date is supposed to be June 26, 2016]
2016/086

  • Russia has a well-developed cyber-offensive program run by the FSB, whose four main targets are, in order of priority:
    • Foreign governments, especially western
    • Foreign businesses, especially banks
    • Russia’s elite
    • Political opponents inside and outside of Russia
  • Russia has had limited success breaching foreign governments, but has found great success targeting western businesses and banks.
  • The FSB recruits individuals – particularly those with connections to Russia – using financial and business incentives.
  • The FSB often uses coercion and blackmail to recruit qualified IT (information technology) cyber operatives, including targeting Russian-born U.S. citizens on business trips to Russia.
  • Due to the large number of recruits, the Central Bank of Russia has had difficulty covering over the large amount of money that must be laundered to pay them.
  • FSB operatives have successfully penetrated the “Telegram” encrypted communications system used by some businesses.
  • There has also been a large amount of cyber crime by individuals in Russia operating outside of government control, including by 15 Russian organized crime groups.

Memo #3
July 19, 2016
2016/094

  • Trump foreign policy adviser Carter Page had a secret meeting with Putin associate Igor Sechin, CEO of Russian oil company Rosneft.
  • Sechin offered Page future Russian cooperation on energy production in exchange for lifting of Ukraine-related sanctions against Russia. Page was positive but noncommittal toward the offer.
  • Igor Divyekin, a spy with the Internal Political Department of the Putin Administration, also met with Page during his Russia visit to make him aware of Russia’s dossier of kompromat on Hillary Clinton. Divyekin offered to make the information available to Trump’s team.
  • In order to encourage Page’s cooperation, Divyekin may also have suggested that Russia had kompromat on Trump.

Memo #4
Undated
2016/095

  • A source within the Trump Campaign admits that the Trump Campaign and the Kremlin are cooperating in a relationship managed by Paul Manafort, using Carter Page and others to transmit information.
  • Putin hates Hillary Clinton and wants to see her defeated.
  • Russia had leaked the DNC e-mails via WikiLeaks, rather than directly, to ensure “plausible deniability.” The leak was done with full knowledge of Trump and his top associates, and Trump reciprocated by aligning campaign priorities with Putin’s agenda for Ukraine.
  • Russian interference in the Clinton Campaign was being done using
    • Russian agents within the Democratic Party
    • Russian hackers in the U.S.
    • Russian hackers in Russia
  • Russian agents and hackers in the U.S. received money and communications through the Russian pension distribution system.
  • In exchange for intelligence on Clinton, Trump’s team provided information to the Kremlin on U.S.-based Russian oligarchs and their U.S. assets.
  • The Trump Campaign source said that Trump and his team didn’t mind negative media coverage related to Russia, which helped distract from more damaging issues like his dealings in China that have involved large bribes and kickbacks.
  • Trump had tried numerous times to get business in Russia but was unable to, and instead ended up using Russia’s prostitutes.

Memo #5
July 30, 2016
2016/097

  • A source within the Trump Campaign said that there was increasing concern within the campaign about the DNC hacking and the media exposure of it.
  • The Kremlin was similarly concerned and planned to pull back on their activities in order to maintain “plausible deniability.”
  • Intelligence had been exchanged between the Kremlin and the Trump team for at least eight years. In return, Trump and his associates supplied information about oligarchs in the U.S. and their families.
  • There is more kompromat yet to be released on Clinton.
  • The Kremlin will not use their ample kompromat against Trump because he and his team have been “helpful and co-operative.”

Memo #6
August 5, 2016
2016/100

  • Hacking of DNC e-mails was largely coordinated by Putin spokesperson Dmitry Peskov and his “black PR team.”
  • Peskov is worried that he will be blamed for blowback against Russia over the hacking.
  • Russian Deputy Prime Minister Sergei Ivanov believes that the hack went too far, wants the operation to stop, and recommends that the Kremllin “sit tight and deny everything.”
  • Russian Prime Minister Dmitriy Medvedev is concerned about damage that the hack may do to U.S.-Russia relations, and is openly refusing to cover up for Peskov.
  • People in the Kremlin opposed to Peskov’s efforts have discussed forcing Trump to withdraw from the Presidential race “on grounds of his psychological state and unsuitability for high office.”

Memo #7
August 10, 2016
2016/101

  • Sergei Ivanov wishes the Kremlin to keep a low profile and not engage in further leaks for now.
  • Instead, the Kremlin will spread rumors and disinformation in the U.S. that exploit current DNC leaks.
  • Disinformation will target educated youth in the U.S., whom the Kremlin believes can be convinced to vote for Trump as a protest against the establishment, which Clinton embodies.
  • Even if Clinton wins, turning educated youth against her will weaken her ability to lead and her ability to hinder Russia.
  • Putin is pleased with the Kremlin’s U.S. Presidential operation, which he feels has successfully divided hawks and elites in the U.S.
  • The operation has three areas of focus:
    • Offer assistance to Americans sympathetic to Russia
    • Gather intelligence
    • Disseminate kompromat
  • The operation has included support and indirect funding of trips to Moscow for U.S. political figures, including Green Party Presidential candidate Jill Stein, Carter Page, and Michael Flynn.

Memo #8
August 10, 2016
2016/102

  • A Trump Campaign insider reports that the aim of the DNC hacks was to sway Sanders supporters (seen as anti-establishment and having a “visceral dislike of Hillary Clinton”) toward Trump and away from Clinton.
  • This targeting strategy was Carter Page’s idea.
  • The Trump Campaign underestimated the hacking’s potential backlash from U.S. media, political left, and right-wing elites, and a change in tactics is being considered.
  • The Trump Campaign will make more use of media to get alternate messaging out.
  • The operation’s current short-term goal is to neutralize Clinton’s efforts to make Putin a “bogeyman” – efforts which make her appear more patriotic than Trump.
  • There is anger within the Trump Campaign that Putin’s efforts seemed to go beyond merely helping Trump to actually undercutting the U.S. democratic system of government.

Memo #9
August 22, 2016
2016/105

  • Putin met with pro-Russian former Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovych (now in exile in Russia) on August 15, 2016 in Volgograd, Russia.
  • At that meeting, Yanukovych told Putin that he had authorized large kickback payments to Manafort, but assured Putin that there was no paper trail.
  • Putin and others in the Kremlin were skeptical due to Yanukovych’s past clumsy efforts at covering his tracks. The Kremlin is concerned about potential exposure and embarrassment.
  • Manafort had been doing business in Ukraine until he joined the Trump Campaign in March 2016.
  • Manafort was ousted from the Trump Campaign in part because of the revelations in the press about his ties to Ukraine, but also because of internal campaign hostility toward him and his strategy and policy ideas.

Memo #10
September 14, 2016
2016/111

  • Putin has ordered that Kremlin and government officials not publicly or privately discuss Russia’s intervention efforts in the U.S. Presidential campaign.
  • A Kremlin insider confirmed that “the gist” of allegations of Russian meddling is true.
  • Putin has gotten conflicting advice on the operation from different factions:
    • Those who urged caution to prevent blowback: Russian ambassador to the U.S. Sergei Kislyak; the Russian Ministry of Foreign Affairs; and foreign policy adviser Yuri Ushakov.
    • Those who believed that the operation would be “effective and plausibly deniable with little blowback:” Sergei Ivanov and the SVR.
  • Ivanov’s advice had proven wrong, so Putin fired him on August [12th] 2016 [Wikipedia].
  • The Kremlin intends to release further kompromat on Clinton (still managed and controlled by Peskov under direction of Putin) after mid-September.
  • Some Putin advisers recommend not releasing further Clinton kompromat, but instead provoking Clinton to rail against Putin, which they think would make her look “weak and stupid.”
  • One goal of Russia’s election operation is believed by some in Moscow to be to shift the policies of both Clinton and Trump toward positions more beneficial to Russia, including:
    • Opposing TPP and TPIP which are not in Russia’s interests
    • Changes in positions on Syria and Ukraine
  • A Russian diplomat to the U.S., Mikhail Kulagin, was removed from the U.S. by Russia because of Kremlin concerns that his extensive involvement in the “veterans’ pensions ruse” would be exposed by the press.

Memo #11
September 14, 2016
2016/112

  • Relations are relatively good between Putin and the Alpha [Alfa] Group, which does political favors for Putin in exchange for business/legal favors for Alfa. [Alfa Bank’s server was detected by U.S. intelligence to be mysteriously “pinging” a Trump campaign server during the 2016 Presidential campaign.] [Fortune Magazine]
  • Putin is listening to advice from Alfa leaders Mikhail Fridman and Petr Aven regarding how to deal with the U.S., because he does not trust the counsel of his own advisers.
  • Putin and Fridman recently conversed in person, but communication between them is generally handled by Oleg Govorun for “plausible deniability” due to Govorun’s low profile.
  • Govorun currently heads the Russian organization responsible for interactions with CIS, the other nations of the former Soviet Union.
  • In the 1990s, Govorun had worked for Alfa Bank delivering large amounts of illicit money to Putin, then Mayor of St. Petersburg.
  • Alfa had kompromat on Putin from his corrupt practices in the 1990s, but Putin nonetheless has leverage over them in the form of Kremlin officials’ disapproval of Alfa’s financial activities.

Memo #12
September 14, 2016
2016/113

  • Trump has a history of paying bribes in St. Petersburg, Russia to try to get real estate deals there.
  • The bribes were paid “discreetly and only through affiliated companies, making it very hard to prove.”
  • Trump also participated in sex parties in St. Petersburg, but all witnesses have recently been bribed or coerced to be silent.
  • Araz [Aras] Agalarov would likely have knowledge of Trump’s activities in St. Petersburg.

Memo #13
October 12, 2016
2016/130

  • Kremlin officials are having “buyer’s remorse” over their U.S. Presidential election operation.
  • Kremlin officials are surprised that leaks about Hillary Clinton have not been more damaging to her campaign.
  • More hacked Clinton material has been released through sources like WikiLeaks, and will continue to be released until the November election, but the most damaging material is already public.
  • Putin is angry at Kremlin officials who “overpromised” about Trump’s chances and reliability, and who minimized the risk of blowback.
  • The Trump operation was intended to destabilize the U.S. and the Western-oriented international community in general.
  • Putin sees Western destabilization as advantageous to Russia.
  • The Trump operation was initially run by the Russian Foreign Ministry, then was run by the FSB, and is now being managed by Putin’s administration.
  • Win or lose, Trump will be valuable to Russia because he will remain divisive.

Memo #14
October 18, 2016
2016/134

  • More details on July 2016 meeting in Moscow between Rosneft CEO Igor Sechin and Trump adviser Carter Page (Memo #3)
  • The meeting took place on July 7 or 8, 2016, while Page was in Moscow to speak at the Higher Economic School.
  • Sechin offered Page and Trump associates up to 19% privatized stake of Rosneft in exchange for getting economic sanctions lifted. Page said that the sanctions would be lifted if Trump won.
  • Until October 17, 2016, Sechin believed that Trump could win, but is now looking for other avenues to work with the U.S.
  • Trump lawyer Michael Cohen has been key in the Trump-Russia relationship.

Memo #15
October 19, 2016
2016/135

  • Paul Manafort had managed the Trump-Russia relationship until he was fired as Trump Campaign Manager in August: then Cohen began handling that relationship.
  • Cohen is now working to limit exposure of the Trump-Russia operation, and met secretly in August 2016 with Kremlin lawyers in an EU country.
  • Areas of concern to Cohen include how to deal with U.S. media revelations of Manafort’s relationship with pro-Russian Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovych and of Carter Page’s secret July meeting with Kremlin officials.
  • The goal is to ensure that nothing can be proven.
  • To further avoid detection, the Kremlin used trusted agents as intermediaries such as [the Institute of] Law and Comparative Jurisprudence [IZISP] to communicate. Cohen remained the main point of contact for Trump.
  • There is further confirmation of shakeups within the Kremlin related to the Trump operation and the desire to cover it up.

Memo #16
October 20, 2016
2016/136

  • Michael Cohen’s secret meeting with Kremlin representatives in August happened in Prague, Czech Republic.
  • The meeting was arranged by the NGO Russotrudnichestvo, possibly in their office, to create “plausible deniability.”
  • Russotrudnichestvo’s Konstantin Kosachev, head of the Russian Foreign Relations Committee, is an important figure in communications between the Trump Campaign and Kremlin. He arranged and possibly attended the meeting.
  • The meeting was originally scheduled for Moscow, but was moved to Prague to be less obvious.

Memo #17
December 13, 2016
2016/166

  • Cohen’s meeting in Prague happened in either in the last week of August or first week of September, and he had three other people with him.
  • One Russian involved was Oleg Solodukhin (via Russotrudnichestvo).
  • The agenda/discussion included:
    • Need to make sure that payments to hackers are deniable.
    • General need to cover tracks from interactions between Russia and the Trump Campaign.
    • Contingency plans if Hillary wins the election, including making payments to hackers quickly and discreetly and ensuring that they keep a low profile.
    • Limiting damage from revelations in U.S. press regarding Manafort and Page.
    • Romanian hackers should “stand down.”
    • Other operatives should go to Plovdiv, Bulgaria and “lay low.”
  • From March-September, 2016, [name redacted] company “and its affiliates used botnets and porn traffic to transmit viruses, plant bugs, steal data, and conduct ‘altering operations’ against the Democratic Party leadership.
  • Operatives were paid by both the Kremlin and the Trump Campaign, but their loyalties are to Sergei Ivanov and the Russian government in general.

Analysis

Steele’s memos describe a covert Kremlin operation, consistent with known and documented events, to damage the Clinton Campaign and help Trump win the Presidency. If Steele’s findings are accurate, there was active cooperation between people in the Trump Campaign and the Kremlin. Worse, the memos depict the man who has become our President as potentially subject to blackmail by Vladimir Putin – a cunning leader whose interests are hostile to the U.S.

Some potentially relevant background:

During the Cold War, Putin was a high level officer in the KGB and later the FSB – somewhat equivalent to the CIA. He rightly blames the United States for the Soviet Union’s collapse, and would like to see Russia restored to the global power and glory that it enjoyed during the Cold War Era. Putin particularly despises Hillary Clinton, whom he sees as having actively worked to undermine his and Russia’s power.

Part of Putin’s rise to power is believed to have involved an incident similar to the videotaping of Trump in the Moscow Ritz Carlton. The KGB and FSB were known to have hidden cameras and other recording devices in many of the rooms of Russia’s top hotels. In 1997, six years after the fall of the Soviet Union, then-FSB head Putin publicly released video footage of Russia’s Prosecutor General, Yury Skuratov, having sex in a hotel bed with two women, resulting in Skuratov resigning in disgrace. The event was widely believed to have been an FSB operation. [New York Times]

Two years later, Russian President Yeltsin appointed Putin Prime Minister of Russia as a reward for exposing government corruption. Putin moved on to replace Yeltsin.

If Steele’s dossier is accurate, Putin may be using a method against the United States that has yielded positive results for him in the past.

– rob rünt


Read more of this special series:
The Trump-Russia Web


 

 

The Trump-Russia Web – Part 7: Natalia Veselnitskaya

The Trump-Russia Web – Part 7: Natalia Veselnitskaya

Natalia Veselnitskaya’s Talking Points for Trump Tower – June 9, 2016

(Full Text of Veselnitskaya’s Talking Points)


Vveselnitskaya_Natalia-CROP
Natalia Veselnitskaya (Photo: Newsweek)

The information that Veselnitskaya gave to U.S. Representative Dana Rohrabacher (R-CA) when he was visiting Moscow in April 2016 – pages 6-7 of the attached document – provide a good summary of Veselnitskaya’s talking points.


Analysis

Veselnitskaya’s talking points appear to argue for repealing the Magnitsky Act by discrediting William Browder and Sergei Magnitsky and using the manipulative angle of wanting to help Russian orphans (American adoption of whom Putin banned in retaliation for the U.S passage of the Magnitsky Act). Veselnitskaya attempts to stir hostility toward Browder by raising the claim that Browder defrauded both the U.S. and Russian government out of millions of dollars in taxes.

To make her talking point about Browder seem relevant to the Trump Campaign, Veselnitskaya points out that the New York billionaire Ziff brothers – major Democratic donors – had invested with Browder, and that if they donated to the Clinton Campaign, their donations would be tainted and possibly illegal.

Whatever the factual basis for Veselnitskaya’s claims, it is clear that she is using the information in a distorted and slanted way to push repeal of the Magnitsky Act – a U.S. law that has frozen the U.S. assets of many wealthy Russians, including Vladmir Putin. As a Russian citizen, Veselnitskaya would certainly gain favor with Putin if her efforts were successful.

I personally believe that the truth of the Magnitsky story is somewhere between Browder’s account and Veselnitskaya’s.

– rob rünt


Read more of this special series:
The Trump-Russia Web


 

 

The Trump-Russia Web – Part 6: William Browder

The Trump-Russia Web – Part 6: William Browder

William Browder’s Opening Statement to the Senate Judiciary Committee – July 26, 2017

(Full Text of Browder’s Opening Statement)


Disclaimer: This is a summary of William Browder’s testimony before the Senate Judiciary Committee on July 26, 2017. The information below was presented by William Browder in his testimony, and is not being represented here as either fact or as the opinion of the webmaster unless specifically stated. All statements and assertions should be read as if prefaced by “William Browder states that …” Any content that I add will be surrounded by [brackets] and will likely include a link or reference to the source.


Browder_William-CROP
William Browder (Photo: Wikipedia)

Detailed Summary 

Browder was born in Chicago, and is now a British citizen. He has lived in London and Moscow for the past 28 years. He founded Hermitage Capital Management, a major investment advisory firm in Russia, which in 1996-2005 had over $4 billion in Russian stocks.

As owner of a major finance firm, he began learning that Russian oligarchs steal from shareholders, including from Browder’s fund, the Hermitage Fund. To fight this corruption, he began researching how these oligarchs were stealing the money. He would then pass the information on to the Russian news media.

Although Browder never met Putin personally, Browder’s efforts were supported and even assisted by Putin, because the oligarchs had “misappropriated much of the president’s power as well,” and Putin was just beginning to consolidate his own power.

In 2003, Putin arrested and jailed Russia’s richest man, Mikhail Khodorkovsky, and staged a dramatic and humiliating televised show trial to make a public example of him. After that, the other Russian oligarchs came to fear Putin. Putin began demanding a 50% cut of the money that they were stealing, and Putin was no longer supportive of Browder’s anti-corruption efforts, which would now negatively impact Putin’s intake.

On November 13, 2005, Browder was detained and deported from Russia as a “threat to national security.” Eighteen months later, the Russian Interior Ministry raided the Moscow office of Hermitage Capital Management and Browder’s attorney and seized “all the corporate documents connected to the investment holding companies of the funds that I advised.”

Browder hired attorney Sergei Magnitsky to investigate what the officials were doing with these documents. Magnitsky determined that the documents were being used to re-register Browder’s holding companies to a convicted murderer named Viktor Markelov, and $230 million in taxes paid to the Russian government by Browder’s companies had been diverted elsewhere. [Note: Prevezon Holdings was accused by the U.S. Department of Justice of laundering millions of dollars in New York real estate, using money from a $230 million Russian tax fraud scheme. Prevezon settled out of court for $5.9 million without admitting guilt.]

Browder and Magnitsky notified the Russian authorities of what was going on, but instead of arresting those responsible, the authorities arrested and jailed Magnitsky. He was in prison for nearly a year under unusually horrible conditions, during which time, he was pressured to withdraw his testimony and sign a statement that he had stolen the money on instruction from Browder. Magnitsky refused.

Magnitsky’s health deteriorated dramatically in prison. He developed pancreatitis and gallstones which required surgery, but was instead transferred to an extremely harsh prison called Butyrka where no such treatment was available. His condition became critical. Magnitsky was transferred to another prison, was chained in an isolation cell, and was beaten to death by eight guards on November 16, 2009.

Browder, feeling responsible because Magnitsky had died defending him, vowed to avenge Magnitsky’s death. Magnitsky had documented all of the abuse during his time in prison in handwritten notes secretly passed to his attorneys. When this evidence was brought to Russian authorities, nobody was prosecuted. Instead, many responsible were given promotions.

Browder believed that the $230 million was likely in the west, where other Russians could not steal it. He decided to seek justice by getting the western assets of Magnitsky’s tormenters frozen and their visas to enter the United States denied.

In 2010, Browder began lobbying Senators Benjamin Cardin (D -MD) and John McCain (R-AZ) to create the Magnitsky Act, to freeze the western assets of specific Russian individuals and ban their visas. In late 2012, the act passed both houses of Congress and was singed into law by President Obama.

Putin responded with various retaliatory measures, including imposing a ban on American adoption of Russian orphans. Browder believes that Putin’s outrage was in part because Putin had ultimately been the personal recipient of Browder’s missing $230 million. Putin’s closest childhood friend, Sergei Roldugin, who Browder believes was acting as an agent for Putin, was shown in the Panama Papers to have received $2 billion from various Russian oligarchs. Part of this money was Browder’s $230 million. Because this particular money ultimately led to the death of Sergei Magnitsky, Putin is subject to the restrictions of the Magnitsky Act. Putin’s wealth is estimated at $200 billion, and much of it is in western countries, so Putin has a personal reason to want the Magnitsky Act repealed. The act also weakens Putin’s control over wealthy Russian oligarchs.

A Russian named Boris Nemtsov helped Browder advocate for the Magnitsky Act. In 2015, Nemtsov was murdered on a bridge in front of the Kremlin. Another Magnitsky Act advocate, Vladimir Kara-Murza, was poisoned in December 2016 and barely survived. Another Magnitsky Act advocate, the lawyer for Magnitsky’s mother, Nikolai Gorokhov, was thrown from the fourth floor of his apartment building in early 2017 but survived. Browder himself has also received multiple death threats from Russia, and the Russian government has also tried to arrest him multiple times using Interpol and other law enforcement.

Browder believes that wealthy Russians Pyotr Katsyv and Denis Katsyv, Natalia Veselnitskaya (the lawyer who met with Trump Jr., Manafort and Kushner at Trump Tower) and a group of “American lobbyists” began a campaign in the U.S. to repeal the Magnitsky Act or to have Magnitsky’s name removed from the Act.

Pyotr Katsyv is a high level Russian government official. His son Denis was caught using what Browder believes was part of his $230 million to purchase Manhattan real estate to launder the money. Veselnitskaya is the Katsyv’s attorney.

Veselnitskaya also created a “fake NGO” called Human Rights Accountability Global Initiative Foundation (HRAGI) to advocate repeal the Magnitsky Act by focusing on Russian adoption. Veselnitskaya brought on Rinat Akhmetshin – a U.S. citizen and former Soviet intelligence officer – to help with HRAGI’s efforts.

Veselnitskaya hired New York law firm Baker Hostetler to lobby Congress to remove Magnitsky’s name from the Magnitsky Act. Through that law firm, she also hired Fusion GPS to “conduct a smear campaign against me and Sergei Magnitsky in advance of congressional hearings on the Global Magnitsky Act.”

Fusion GPS told U.S. media that Magnitsky “was not murdered, was not a whistle-blower, and was instead a criminal.” Veselnitskaya hired marketing firm Potomac Group to create a fake documentary to discredit Browder and Sergei Magnitsky, a huge screening of which was held at the Newseum in Washington DC. Howard Schweitzer of Cozzen O’Connor Public Strategies and former Congressman Ronald Dellums – both of whom had been hired by Veselnitskaya to lobby Congress to repeal the Magnitsky Act – funded the screening and invited members of Congress to attend.

Browder believes that all of these activities were violations of the Foreign Agent Registration Act, requiring entities engaged in political or quasi-political activities in the U.S. on behalf of foreign governments to register and disclose their activities, finances, and their relationship with the foreign government. Browder has filed a complaint with the U.S. Department of Justice stating that many of the groups and individuals above violated FARA.


Analysis

Browder’s testimony paints an overall image of rampant corruption in Russia, where oligarchs scam investors and Putin takes a cut of the oligarchs’ illicit gains. The testimony also makes clear that Browder is at the center of the creation of the Magnitsky Act, which currently prevents Putin and a number of other wealthy Russians from accessing their assets in the west. Putin had retaliated for the Magnitsky Act by, among other things, banning adoption of Russian orphans by Americans.

Given that the obscure subject of Russian adoption seems to come up repeatedly in interactions between Trump’s people and Russians, it is reasonable to assume that there are efforts to persuade Mr. Trump to repeal the Magnitsky Act so that Putin can once again access his frozen U.S. assets.

  • When Russian lawyer Veselnitskaya met with Donald Trump Jr., Paul Manafort, and Jared Kushner at Trump Tower with the promise of dirt on Hillary Clinton, Trump Jr. later claimed that the discussion was merely about Russian adoption
  • Similarly, when Trump spoke with Putin at the G20 meeting [Vox] , Trump claims that they primarily talked about Russian adoptions.

Browder’s testimony also brings Prevezon Holdings into the forefront of the issues surrounding the Magnitsky Act, accusing them of helping launder $230 million in taxes that he claimed he paid to Russia, but which the Russian government later claimed was not paid by Browder. Russian attorney Sergei Magnitsky died in prison trying to help Browder prove his case. Part of Browder’s efforts to allegedly avenge Magnitsky involved informing the U.S. Department of Justice that Prevezon was engaged in money laundering in New York.

Browder claims that law firm Baker Hostetler (hired to defend Prevezon), Fusion GPS (hired by Baker Hostetler to gather research supporting Prevezon’s court case), and a number of other organizations were involved in a campaign to repeal the Magnitsky Act. He also claims that those organizations, as well as Natalia Veselnitskaya, were operating on behalf of the Russian government. If so, their anti-Magnitsky campaign work would be a violation of FARA, because they had not registered to disclose that they were working on behalf of the Russian government.

Fusion’s production of the Trump dossier, if done as unregistered agents of the Russian government, could have been part of Russia’s campaign to influence the 2016 Presidential election. Creation of the Trump dossier would of course not be intended to sway the election toward Trump. The intent would instead be to sow discord, chaos and distrust in the election among the American people – goals that would be consistent with Putin’s. Yet Fusion GPS’s Glenn Simpson, whose testimonies are covered later in this series, comes across as an extremely straightforward, credible and forthcoming witness, which would tend to negate the idea of Fusion as being in league with the Kremlin.

Because of the possibility that Fusion was acting on behalf of the Russian government, Republicans on the Senate Judiciary Committee and House Intelligence Committee interviewing Simpson focused on Fusion GPS’s work on the Prevezon case.

– rob rünt


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The Trump-Russia Web – Part 5: High-Level Summaries

The Trump-Russia Web – Part 5: High-Level Summaries

High Level Summaries


Disclaimer: All of these are summaries of the words of others. They are not being represented here as either fact or as the opinion of the webmaster unless specifically stated. All statements and assertions should be read as if prefaced by “(name of person being summarized) states that …” Any content that I add will be surrounded by [brackets] and will likely include a link or reference to the source.


William Browder’s Opening Statement

(Opening Statement to Senate Judiciary Committee – July 26, 2017)

U.S.-born William Browder was a highly successful investment manager in Russia for several years. He exposed corruption among Russia’s oligarchs, and these efforts were initially supported by Putin because it weakened Putin’s opposition. As Putin became more powerful, he started wanting a cut of any illicit money taken in by the oligarchs and the Russian mafia: Browder’s anti-corruption efforts were no longer welcome, and neither was Browder. He was falsely accused of tax evasion, and hired attorney Sergei Magnitsky to prove him innocent. When Magnitsky found evidence that supported Browder and took it to Russian authorities, he was jailed, treated harshly, and died in prison a year later. To avenge his death, Browder successfully advocated in the U.S. for the Magnitsky Act, which freezes the U.S. assets of all wealthy Russians responsible for Magnitsky’s death, including Putin. 


Natalia Veselnitskaya’s Notes

(Notes allegedly used by Russian lawyer at Trump Tower meeting)

Relations between the U.S. and Russia have become needlessly strained as a result of the Magnitsky Act. William Browder’s story that resulted in passage of the Magnitsky Act is a lie. Browder avoided paying an enormous amount of taxes in both Russia and the United States, and Sergei Magnitsky was an accomplice to his criminal activity. (As a side note, New York billionaires, the Ziff brothers – major Democratic donors – illegally invested with Browder for years, and if they donated to Hillary Clinton, that money would therefore be tainted.) The U.S. should repeal the Magnitsky Act so that relations between Russia and the U.S. can improve. Because Putin retaliated for the Magnitsky Act by banning adoption of Russian orphans by Americans, a removal of the Magnitsky Act will likely also benefit helpless orphans who have been unduly harmed by Putin’s response to the Magnitsky Act. 


Steele Dossier

(Memos developed by Christopher Steele while investigating Trump’s business ties in Russia as part of opposition research)

There appears to be a significant collaborative effort between the Kremlin and the Trump Campaign to help Donald Trump win the 2016 Presidential election. The Kremlin had extensive “kompromat” on both Trump and Clinton, and is actively engaging in cyber operations against the Clinton Campaign. Their kompromat on Trump is sufficient to blackmail him. Major Kremlin objectives appear to be to destabilize the west, achieve removal of U.S. sanctions against Russia, and weaken U.S. policies that negatively impact Russia.


Simpson Testimony #1 – Prevezon Case

(Testimony of Fusion GPS founder Glenn Simpson before Senate Judiciary Committee on August 17, 2017)

Law firm Baker Hostetler hired Simpson’s company, Fusion GPS, to research information that could vindicate their client, Cyprus-based investment company Prevezon Holdings. Prevezon had been accused of money laundering by the U.S. Department of Justice. Russian lawyer Natalia Veselnitskaya was Prevezon’s attorney, and she hired Baker to help with such a major case. During the research, Simpson discovered that William Browder – a major enemy of Vladimir Putin – was the source of the money laundering allegations against Prevezon. Browder was very evasive and reluctant to testify to his accusations against Prevezon under oath. Simpson compiled a large amount of public information on Browder that seemed to call into question Browder’s credibility. During the course of his involvement with the case, Simpson ended up at two group dinners with Veselnitskaya, both the evening before and after her Trump Tower meeting, and was also at a hearing for Prevezon with her on the day of the Trump Tower meeting. Simpson was unaware of Veselnitskaya’s Trump Tower meeting until it was reported in the news.


Simpson Testimony #2 – Prevezon Case

(Testimony of Fusion GPS founder Glenn Simpson before House Intelligence Committee on November 14, 2017)

More details that further fill out Simpson’s previous testimony, including an admission that the information from his research for Prevezon was likely used by Veselnitskaya at the Trump Tower meeting to help her argue against the Magnitsky Act and as her “dirt” on Hillary Clinton. Simpson’s research had not been intended to be used in that way, and Simpson had been unaware that Veselnitskaya might have been acting on behalf of the Russian government.


Simpson Testimony #1 – Trump Investigation

(Testimony of Fusion GPS founder Glenn Simpson before Senate Judiciary Committee on August 17, 2017)

Fusion GPS was hired by a Republican client during the 2016 Presidential primaries – and then by a Democratic client after the Republican Convention – to research Donald Trump. The goal was to learn everything about Trump, good and bad, to provide an accurate picture to the client. Early indications in the research were that Trump had connections to organized crime, particularly Russian organized crime. After exhausting public records, Simpson hired former British intelligence officer/Russia specialist Christopher Steele to see what more he could learn from his contacts in Russia. Steele was alarmed when he uncovered an apparent operation by the Kremlin to help Trump win the U.S. Presidential election. Out of a sense of professional duty, Steele reported his findings to the FBI.


Simpson Testimony #2 – Trump Investigation

(Testimony of Fusion GPS founder Glenn Simpson before House Intelligence Committee on November 14, 2017)

More details that further fill out Simpson’s previous testimony, including his and Steele’s belief that Steele’s information was not being acted on by the FBI. This belief raised deep concern between them that there was something questionable happening at the FBI, and caused them to take their information to the press.


Nunes Memo

(Document compiled by the office of U.S. Rep. Devin Nunes (R-CA))

The information used to obtain a FISA warrant to monitor communications of Trump Campaign foreign policy adviser Carter Page was illegitimate, because it’s direct basis and indirect basis were the Steele dossier – a document funded by a partisan source and therefore not credible. Its use indicates a possible campaign within the FBI and intelligence community to undermine Trump.


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The Trump-Russia Web – Part 4: Timeline, Key Relationships, Key Places

The Trump-Russia Web – Part 4: Timeline, Key Relationships, Key Places

Timeline, Key Relationships, Key Places


Disclaimer: The information, events, and relationships described in the pdf files below are based on the Steele dossier, the opening statement of William Browder, the Nunes memo, and the House and Senate testimonies of Glenn Simpson. The information has been compiled to help understand what has been communicated in these documents and testimonies, and is not being represented here as either fact or as the opinion of the webmaster unless specifically stated. All statements and assertions should be read as if prefaced by “The documents referenced in this series indicate …” Additional detail has been gathered from external sources like Wikipedia and news accounts, and is indicated by [brackets].


Timeline

Timeline_Graphic


Key Relationships

_Key_Relationships


Key Places

_Map-TrumpRussia


 

Read more of this special series:
The Trump-Russia Web


 

 

The Trump-Russia Web – Part 3: Who’s Who

The Trump-Russia Web – Part 3: Who’s Who

Who’s Who


NOTE: Names in red are most important to the narratives in this series.


Disclaimer: The information below was compiled from Simpson’s testimonies, the Steele dossier, and William Browder’s opening statement, and may or may not be accurate. Content that includes information that I add will be surrounded by [brackets] and/or will include a link or reference to the source.


Roman Abramovich
A Russian billionaire businessman and politician. Simpson recommended that the House Intelligence Committee look into Jared Kushner and Ivanka Trump’s relationship with him. [He has admitted in court that part of his success was achieved by bribing government officials and paying gangsters. [Wikipedia]

Emin Agalarov
A Russian pop star who knows Donald Trump from the 2013 Miss Universe Pageant in Moscow. In Rob Goldstone’s June 3, 2016 e-mail to Trump Jr., Goldstone said that Emin had “something very interesting” for the Trump campaign. [NPR] The Agalarovs came to the United States around the fall of the Soviet Union, and Simpson says that the Agalarovs were connected to people previously involved in major money laundering activity in New York in the early 1990s.

Aras Agalarov
One of the wealthiest oligarchs in Russia. Father of Emin Agalarov. Aras and Emin met Donald Trump during 2013 Miss Universe Pageant in Moscow. [NPR] He is believed to have been given Veselnitskaya’s information by Yuri Chaika and then helped arrange the trump Tower meeting for Veselnitskaya. 

Rinat Akhmetshin
A former Russian intelligence officer, now a U.S. citizen – a PR consulting lobbyist – enlisted by Natalia Veselnitskaya to help in the campaign by Human Rights Accountability Global Initiative Foundation to repeal the Magnitsky Act. Simpson met him while working at the Wall Street Journal covering some stories about Kazakhstan.

Robert Arakelian
A man whom Simpson vaguely recalls from a Prevezon lunch or dinner, introduced as a friend of either Rinat Akhmetshin or Denis Katsyv, owner of Prevezon – Simpson could not recall which. Questions from the Senate Judiciary Committee imply that he was a lobbyist for HRAGI.

Tevfik Arif / Tofik Arifov
A Central Asian man alleged by Simpson to be involved in organized crime, child prostitution, and Donald Trump. Simpson says that he was involved in the development of Trump Soho.

Julian Assange
Founder of WikiLeaks, currently living in the Ecuadorian Embassy in the UK to avoid being extradited to Sweden to face sexual assault charges. WikiLeaks was the organization that made public incriminating e-mails from the DNC and the Clinton Campaign https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Julian_Assange

Petr Aven
One of the three leaders of Alfa Bank. 

Demetri Baranovsky
A Russian organized crime figure (member of the Solntsevo Brotherhood) who was allegedly blackmailing Prevezon.

Elena Baranoff
An Uzbek immigrant who died of cancer in 2015. Simpson says that she was a suspected organized crime figure who took the Trumps on tours of Russia and brokered some of his deals.

Edward Baumgartner
A Russian-speaking subcontractor hired by Fusion GPS to work on the Prevezon case. He was tasked with helping to locate witnesses, gather Russian language documents and Russian language media reports. After the Prevezon case ended, he also did some work on the Trump case, gathering information from Russian language newspapers about Paul Manafort and Ukraine. Baumgartner has a consulting firm that deals with issues in Ukraine and sometimes Russia.

Paul Behrends
A Congressional aide to U.S. Representative Dana Rohrabacher (R-CA). Simpson says that Behrends met with either lobbyist Rinat Akhmetshin or attorney Mark Cymrot or both. [Politico] 

William Browder
An American-born hedge fund manager and investment advisor who surrendered his U.S. citizenship in 1998 and has since has lived mainly in Russia and the UK. He is the founder and CEO of Hermitage Capital Management. He relayed information to the U.S. Department of Justice against Prevezon in a money laundering case. Browder gave an absolutely riveting testimony to the Senate Judiciary Committee on 7/26/17. [The Atlantic]

Evgeny Buryakov / Eugene Buryakov
A former employee of Russia’s Sberbank arrested as an illegal Russian intelligence agent. Simpson believes that Buryakov tried to recruit Trump campaign adviser Carter Page.

Lee Casey
An attorney and partner at Baker Hostetler’s Washington DC office. Together with Baker attorney David Rivkin Jr., he wrote an op-ed in the Wall Street Journal in October 2017 urging Trump to pardon anyone believed to be involved in Russian interference with the U.S. election. [Wall Street Journal]

Yuri Chaika
The Prosecutor General of Russia, one of that country’s most powerful government officials. The New York Times reported that Veselnitskaya discussed allegations against Hillary Clinton with him before trying to pass them on to the Trump team during the Trump Tower meeting. [New York Times]

Michael Cohen
An attorney for Donald Trump described by Simpson as “very intimidating.” One of his tasks was fielding inquiries about Trump and Russia. Simpson said that Cohen was also involved in Trump real estate projects where there were a lot of Russian buyers, and that he had associations with Russian organized crime figures in New York and Florida.

James Comey
Former FBI Director. He has served high level government roles under both Democratic and Republican Presidents. Controversially, less than two weeks before the 2016 election, he notified Congress that the FBI was re-opening its investigation into Hillary Clinton’s use of a private e-mail server, yet did not disclose that the FBI was also investigating the Trump Campaign’s connections with Russia. Some credit that unorthodox disclosure with undermining Clinton at the last minute and throwing the election to Trump. On May 9, 2017, President Trump fired Comey, prompting the appointment of a special prosecutor to determine is Trump’s act was an obstruction of justice. [Wikipedia]

Chris Cooper
A former Wall Street Journal reporter, now a public relations person working for the Potomac Group/Potomac Square Group, who was hired by Russian lawyer Natalia Veselnitskaya to create what Browder calls a “fake documentary” about Browder and Sergei Magnitsky. Simpson has been friends with Cooper for years and occasionally refers PR work to him.

 Mark Cymrot
A former Justice Department Prosecutor who now works at Baker Hostetler. He was the partner in charge of the Prevezon case, and the person to whom Fusion GPS reported for their work on that case.

Oleg Daripaska
A Russian oligarch who met with Presidential candidate John McCain before the 2008 Presidential election. Daripaska is banned from the U.S. due to suspected ties to organized crime.

Ronald Dellums
A former U.S. Congressman hired by Russian lawyer Natalia Veselnitskaya to lobby Congress to repeal the Magnitsky Act.

Igor Divyekin
A Russian spy who Steele says met with Carter Page in Russia to suggest that Russia’s extensive dossier of kompromat on Hillary Clinton could be made available to the Trump team.

Alexander Downer
Australian diplomat to the United Kingdom. In May of 2016, George Papadopoulos allegedly told him in a London bar that the Russians had dirt on Hillary Clinton. Downer informed the Australian government of the conversation, and when the Russian hacking began during the 2016 election, the Australian government informed the U.S. intelligence community of the conversation.

Marc Elias
An attorney at Perkins Coie who was involved in hiring Fusion GPS. Elias is an attorney for the DNC and Clinton Campaign.

Nigel Farage
A broadcaster, politician, and leader of the nationalist UK Independence Party from 2006-2009 and from 2010-2016. [Wikipedia]

Michael Flynn
A retired U.S. Army Lieutenant General who worked on the Trump Campaign and served as National Security Adviser in the early days of the Trump Administration. Flynn has pled guilty to lying to the FBI, and is currently a cooperating witness in Robert Mueller’s investigation. [Wikipedia]

Mikhail Fridman
One of the three leaders of Alfa Bank.

Peter Fritsch
Simpson’s business partner at Fusion GPS. Fritsch had the conversations with Perkins Cole about possibly doing Trump research for them.

Boris Goldstein
A west coast man who Simpson says is known to have ties to Russian intelligence.

Rob Goldstone
A former British tabloid journalist who became a marketer/promoter. Goldstone has known Trump for years, and worked on the Miss Universe Pageant in Moscow. One of Goldstone’s clients is Emin Agalarov. At Emin’s suggestion, Goldstone contacted Trump Jr. about meeting with Russian lawyer Veselnitskaya, and attended the Trump Tower meeting. [Washington Post]

Nikolai Gorokhov
A Russian attorney who has been supportive of the Magnitsky Act. In early 2017, he survived being thrown from the fourth floor of his apartment building [NBC News]

Oleg Govorun
Russian official currently responsible for relations between Russia and other former Soviet countries. In the 1990s, he worked for Alfa Bank, and was responsible for transporting large amounts of illicit cash to Putin when Putin was Mayor of St. Petersburg.

French Hill
A U.S. Representative (R-AR) who has taken pro-Russia positions and who was given the same information that Russian lawyer Natalia Veselnitskaya brought to Trump Tower.

Sergei Ivanov
A Russian Deputy Prime Minister and former KGB agent with whom Putin has been friends with since the 1990s, when Putin appointed him deputy head of the FSB. [Wikipedia] Simpson discovered that Ivanov heads an internal intelligence agency for the Kremlin which “sits atop” several other intelligence agencies including the FSB, GRU and SVR. Ivanov was fired by Putin as Chief of Staff on August 12, 2016 for giving incorrect/overly optimistic advice about the potential blowback from Russia’s interference in the U.S. election, according to the Steele dossier.

Vladimir Kara-Murza
A pro-democracy politician in Russia. He has been supportive of the Magnitsky Act. In December 2016, be barely survived being poisoned. [Wikipedia]

Denis Katsyv
Russian owner of Cyprus-based Prevezon Holdings.

Pyotr Katsyv
The transportation minister for Moscow at the time of the Prevezon case. Now deputy head of the state railroad company. Pyotr is father of Denis Katsyv.

Irakle Kaveladze
A man with ties to the Russian government who Simpson says was has been involved in money laundering and was in the meeting at Trump Tower representing the Agalarovs. [Business Insider]

German Khan
One of the three leaders of Alfa Bank.

Mikhail Khodorkovsky
A Russian oligarch, Russia’s richest man in 2003, at which time Putin arrested him and staged a dramatic televised trial to make an example of him.

Sergei Kislyak
A Russian ambassador to the U.S. who has figured prominently in the Trump-Russia scandal. He was alleged on CNN to be a Russian spy and spy recruiter. had meetings with Trump advisor/then-U.S. Senator Jeff Sessions (R-AL), Michael Flynn and Jared Kushner – meetings which Sessions, Flynn and Kushner all initially denied or claimed not to recall. In May, 2017, Kislyak and Russian diplomat Sergei Lavrov met privately in the Oval Office with Trump. U.S. officials were alarmed when Trump disclosed classified information to them in the meeting. Kislyak returned to Moscow in July 2017. [Wikipedia]

Konstantin Kosachev
Head of Russian Foreign Relations Committee. Steele believes that he was important in communications between the Trump Campaign and Kremlin, and arranged a meeting in Prague between Kremlin representatives and Trump lawyer Michael Cohen during the 2016 Presidential campaign.

David Kramer
Long-time adviser to U.S. Senator John McCain. Simpson has known him for years, and they share a concern about Russian kleptocracy and police state.

Mikhail Kulagin
A Russian diplomat to the U.S. who Steele alleges was heavily involved in the Russian veterans’ pensions money laundering scheme.

Sergei Lavrov
A Russian diplomat. On May 10, 2017 – the day after Trump fired FBI Director James Comey – Lavrov and Russian diplomat Sergei Kislyak met privately in the Oval Office with President Trump. No American journalists were allowed into the room, but a Russia journalist was. [NPR]

Bennett LeBow
Head of Liggett-Ducat, a Moscow-based tobacco manufacturing and distribution company. [Bloomberg] A friend of Howard Lorber and Donald Trump. Simpson credits Lorber and LeBow with introducing Trump to Russia.

Ed Lieberman
A Washington DC lawyer who specializes in international tax issues. He helped Baker Hostetler on the Prevezon case to determine possible tax evasion by William Browder and Hermitage Capital. He had known Rinat Akhmetshin for many years, and now worked with him to lobby Congress to repeal the Magnitsky Act.

 Howard Lorber
A real estate investor who did a lot of deals in Russia when things were fairly wild after the fall of the Soviet Union. Trump considers him a good friend.

Sergei Magnitsky
An attorney that William Browder hired to investigate corruption in the Russian government and Russian business community. One of the companies that he exposed for money laundering was Prevezon Holdings. [Law.com] Magnitsky died in a Russian prison in 2009. To avenge his death, Browder lobbied Congress to successfully pass the Magnitsky Act in 2012.

Paul Manafort
Trump’s Presidential Campaign Chairman from June-August of 2016. Manafort is a lobbyist, lawyer, and political consultant and has helped on numerous other Republican Presidential campaigns. He has also done work for the pro-Russian Party of Regions in the Ukraine, and with ousted Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovych (currently in exile if Russia and wanted by the Ukrainian government for high treason). Manafort is currently under indictment by federal grand jury for conspiracy against the United States, conspiracy to launder money, and failure to file financial information.

Viktor Markelov
A convicted murderer in whose name William Browder alleges that the Russian Interior Ministry had fraudulently re-registered Browder’s holding companies.

Alexander Mashkevich
Central Asian organized crime figure who has been involved in money laundering, the mining industry, and Kazakhstan. He is a financial backer of Felix Sater’s Bayrock. [Wikipedia]

Sergei Millian / Siarhei Kukuts
A Trump-linked Russian linguist who ran the Russian-American Chamber of Commerce. He claimed to be an exclusive agent for Trump in Russia who had sold hundreds of million of dollars in Trump properties to Russians. Simpson believed that Millian helped Trump get funding for Trump Hollywood be assuring investors that there were already a number of pre-sales to Russians. Millian was also linked to Trump’s lawyer, Michael Cohen.

Seymon Mogilevich
The head of the Solntsevo Brotherhood. According to Simpson, he is known for running very elaborate schemes, including a major stock fraud scheme in the U.S. for which he is currently a fugitive from the United States.

John Moscow
An attorney at Baker Hostetler’s New York office. He is an expert in tax evasion and money laundering, and Simpson knows him from his days at the Wall Street Journal. He helped Simpson review information in the Prevezon case.

Boris Nemtsov
Nemtsov was a partner of William Browder in advocating for the Magnitsky Act. He was murdered in 2015 on a bridge in front of the Kremlin.

Devin Nunes
A U.S. Representative (R-CA) who serves as Chairman of the House Intelligence Committee. He was also on the Trump transition team, and has taken numerous actions during Trump’s Presidency opposing investigation efforts into Trump-Russia, as well as releasing information that he claims makes the investigation efforts unnecessary or tainted. On February 3, 2017, Nunes released a memo, authored by his staff, that presented evidence which Nunes said would prove a plot within the FBI against President Trump. [Wikipedia]

Bruce Ohr
Prosecutor who contacted Fusion after the election to get information for the Department of Justice. Ohr is a friend of Steele. According to Fox News, Ohr’s wife Nellie worked on Trump-related research at Fusion during the summer of 2016. [Fox News]

Nellie Ohr
Wife of DOJ Prosecutor Bruce Ohr. According to Fox News, Ohr’s wife Nellie worked on Trump-related research at Fusion during the summer of 2016. [Fox News]

Carter Page
Trump campaign foreign policy adviser who regularly did business in Russia and had lost a lot of money in Russian investments. He owned stock in Gazprom. Simpson believed that the Russians were trying to compromise him. [Page first came to the attention of the FBI after meeting with a Russian spy who was under surveillance.] [Washington Post]

George Papadopoulos
A foreign policy adviser to Donald Trump during the 2016 Presidential campaign. In May of 2016, Papadopoulos was allegedly in a London bar and told Australian diplomat Alexander Downer that the Russians had dirt on Hillary Clinton. On October 5, 2017 Papadopoulos pleaded guilty to lying to the FBI. [Wikipedia]

Dmitry Peskov
Chief spokesman for the Kremlin, believed by Steele to be in control of a dossier of kompromat on Hillary Clinton, and also to have been the coordinator of the DNC hacking.

John Podesta
Campaign Manager for 2016 Clinton Presidential Campaign. Simpson had known Podesta for decades, but states that he did not communicate with him in 2015 or 2016. WikiLeaks released a number of Podesta’s hacked e-mails during the 2016 campaign. Those e-mails eventually became part of a right wing conspiracy theory known as “Pizzagate.” [Snopes]

David Rivkin Jr.
An attorney and partner at Baker Hostetler’s Washington DC office. Together with BH attorney Lee Casey, he wrote an op-ed in the Wall Street Journal in October 2017 urging Trump to pardon anyone believed to be involved in Russian interference with the U.S. election. [Wall Street Journal]

Dana Rohrabacher
A strongly pro-Russia and pro-Putin U.S. Representative (R-CA). On April 2, 2016, during a Congressional trip to Moscow, Russia lawyer Natalia Veselnitskaya gave him a document with talking points similar to those that she brought to Trump Tower two months later. [Wikipedia]

Sergei Roldugin
Vladimir Putin’s closest childhood friend, according to William Browder. Roldugin is a famous cellist who Browder alleges received a large sum of money as an agent for Putin, including $230 million that Browder was accused of not paying in taxes.

Rod Rosenstein
Deputy Attorney General appointed by Trump. Rosenstein serves as acting Attorney General on the investigation of Russian interference in the 2016 Presidential election, because Attorney General Jeff Sessions has recused himself from all matters related to that issue. Rosenstein appointed and oversees Special Prosecutor Robert Mueller.

Wilbur Ross
Former Vice Chariman of the Bank of Cyprus, named in 2017 Trump’s Secretary of Commerce. Cyprus has been known as a country whose banking system is used by wealthy Russians for laundering of illicit money. Ross connected Trump with Russian billionaire Dmitry Rybolovlev to buy a Palm Beach mansion at over twice what Trump had paid for it two years earlier. [A New York Times article from March of 2017 portrays Ross as a “savior” who helped purge the Bank of Cyprus of Russian influence.] [New York Times]

Dmitry Rybolovlev
A wealthy Russian oligarch who purchased a south Florida mansion from Trump in 2008 for around $95 million at a time when the U.S. real estate market was in decline. Trump had purchased it two years earlier for around $40 million. Rybolovlev, who was at one time the largest shareholder in the Bank of Cyprus, was introduced to Trump by billionaire Wilbur Ross, who eventually became Vice Chair of Bank of Cyprus – a position that he held until Trump appointed. [MSNBC] Rybolovlev’s plane or yacht showed up near locations where Trump was several times during the 2016 campaign. According to the New York Times, Rybolovlev has had an adversarial relationship with the Kremlin. [New York Times] However, Simpson states that many Russian oligarchs who have a presence in the U.S. still appear to be working to benefit the Kremlin, and “they like to have an image as someone who is on the outs with the Kremlin, but when you look closely, they’re not.”

Anatoli Samochornov
A Russian translator from New York who was qualified to do legal translation and worked for Baker Hostetler on the Prevezon case. Simpson did not believe that Samochornov knew Natalia Veselnitskaya prior to the Prevezon case. Samochornov was at the Trump Tower meeting.

Felix Sater
A U.S. man with connections to the Solntsevo Brotherhood, the largest organized crime family in Russia. Sater was convicted in 1998 of a $40 million federal racketeering charge [Miami Herald]. Sater has worked with Donald Trump on various real estate projects over the years, but Trump claims to know Sater only peripherally and would not even recognize him. Sater’s company, Bayrock, was located in Trump Tower, was the developer of Trump Soho, and tried in 2016 to make a Trump Tower Moscow happen. [Raw Story]

Howard Schweitzer
An employee of lobbying firm Cozzen O’Connor Public Strategies, hired to lobby Congress to repeal the Magnitsky Act. Schweitzer arranged and funded a June 13, 2016 screening at the Newseum, a Washington DC museum dedicated to the First Amendment, to present what Browder alleges is a fake documentary about Browder and Sergei Magnitsky. Simpson states that he does not know him.

Igor Sechin
A high-ranking Russian government official as well as Executive Chairman of Russian state oil company Rosneft. [Wikipedia] Simpson describes him as “Putin’s No. 1 compadre in the kleptocracy.”

Alex Shnaider
A Russian-born Canadian national who was a partner of Trump in developing Trump International Hotel and Tower in Toronto. Simpson says that Shnaider’s father-in-law, Boris Birshtein, was important in the history of the alliance between the KGB and the Russian mafia, and managed the KGB’s offshore funds after the fall of the Soviet Union.

Dimitri Simes
A Moscow-born man who emigrated to the U.S. in 1973. He was an informal foreign policy adviser on the Soviet Union to President Nixon, and has worked on numerous projects on U.S. relations with the Soviet Union and Russia. In 1994, Nixon appointed him President and CEO of Center for the National Interest, a think tank dedicated to encouraging “strategic realism” in U.S. foreign policy. [Center for the National Interest] Simpson says that Simes is believed to be a Russian agent, and encouraged the House Intelligence Committee to look into him and his think tank.

Glenn Simpson
Glenn Simpson is the founder of Fusion GPS, a research firm. He also has several other LLCs and holding companies. For much of his life prior to starting Fusion, Simpson was an investigative reporter for the Wall Street Journal. His primary interests as a reporter were “political corruption, financial crime, terrorism, tax evasion, stock fraud, financial scandals, congressional investigations, government prosecutions, money laundering, organized crime. During his time as a journalist, he exposed Chinese interference in the 1996 Presidential election of Bill Clinton. In his role at Fusion, Simpson headed the research project that led to his subcontractor, Christopher Steele, producing what has come to be known as the “Trump dossier.”

Paul Singer
A “benefactor” of the Washington Free Beacon, the conservative web site that initially hired Fusion to research Donald Trump. [Politico] Singer supported Marco Rubio in the Republican Presidential Primary. [New York Times]

Christopher Steele
Christopher Steele is a British citizen and was a subcontractor for Fusion GPS in their investigation of Donald Trump. His background was as a former member of MI6, the British equivalent of our CIA. In that role, he was the “lead Russianist” specialized in identifying Russian disinformation.

Roger Stone
A political consultant and lobbyist who is a friend of Donald Trump. He formed a lobbying firm – Black, Manafort, Stone – in 1980 with Paul Manafort. Later bringing on Peter Kelly, the firm became known as a powerful lobbying firm for U.S. companies and foreign organizations. Stone is known as a hardball political player and a promoter of conspiracy theories. [Wikipedia]

Alimzhan Tokhtakhounov
A man who Simpson says is a Russian gangster who was having his associates running a high stakes gambling ring out of Trump Tower. He was in the VIP section with Trump and other powerful Russians at the 2013 Miss Universe Pageant in Moscow.

Natalia Veselnitskaya
The Russian lawyer who met with Kushner, Trump Jr. and Manafort at Trump Tower. She is an attorney for Prevezon Holdings, lives in Moscow, and has been part of a campaign to repeal the Magnitsky Act. She is also the founder of an NGO called Human Rights Accountability Global Initiative Foundation, whose purpose is to restore the adoption of Russian orphans by Americans (see info for Magnitsky Act).
Veselnitskaya interacted with Simpson on the Prevezon project, mainly during encounters in the courtroom and group dinners put together by Baker Hostetler, including a dinner the night before the meeting at Trump Tower. Simpson stated that they didn’t communicate much beyond cordial hellos, because he does not understand Russian, which according to him is all that she speaks. At the dinner before Trump Tower, Simpson said that he was sitting at the opposite end of the table from her.

Debbie Wasserman Schultz
A U.S. Representative (D-FL) who also served as Chair of the DNC until the day before the Democratic National Convention, when she resigned in disgrace over Wikipedia’s release of hacked e-mails indicating that she was involved in efforts to undermine the Presidential campaign of Bernie Sanders in favor of Hillary Clinton. [Wikipedia]

Lanny Wiles
A well-connected Republican consultant and lobbyist.

Sir Andrew Wood
Simpson does not know him. A former British ambassador to Russia(1995-2000) who informed Senator John McCain of the Steele dossier a few weeks after the 2016 Presidential election.

Viktor Yanukovych
The President of Ukraine from 2010-2014. He was pro-Russian, was ousted from power during the Ukrainian revolution, and is now in exile in Russia. He is wanted by the Ukrainian government for high treason.

Ziff Brothers
Major donors to the Democratic Party. Veselnitskaya’s “dirt on Hillary Clinton” was that the Ziff brothers had illegally invested with William Browder without paying taxes in Russia, which therefore made any possible donations from them to Clinton tainted.


 

Read more of this special series:
The Trump-Russia Web