Six ‘Trumpians’ knew of Russian dirt on Clinton
On Sunday, The Washington Post reported on a previously unknown point of contact between the 2016 Donald Trump campaign and a Russian offering negative information about Hillary Clinton. That new report, involving a Trump campaign staffer and long-time Trump ally Roger Stone, means that at least six members of Trump’s broader team knew about offers of dirt from Russians during that campaign — and, depending on how that information was shared, as many as ten may have, including the President.
In March, we looked at the various ways in which members of Trump’s extended teams had been approached by agents of the Russian Government during the campaign. It was a complicated web at that point — a web that has since grown only more intricate.
Let’s walk through the connections between the Trump team and Russian agents and actors in chronological order.
Some important context: by March 2016, both Clinton campaign chairman John Podesta’s e-mail and the Democratic National Committee’s network had been compromised by hackers believed to be working for Russian intelligence agencies. Reports suggest the first access of the DNC’s network occurred in summer 2015, the hack of Podesta’s account in mid-March and the DNC network was compromised again in April. By April, then, Russians had a cache of information stolen from the DNC and Clinton’s campaign chairman.
• Mifsud-Papadopoulos. That same month, Trump campaign adviser George Papadopoulos was told by a London-based professor named Joseph Mifsud that the Russians had dirt on Clinton in the form of e-mails. Mifsud, Papadopoulos later admitted to special counsel Robert Mueller, was interested in Papadopoulos once Papadopoulos revealed his connection to Trump. After Mifsud told Papadopoulos about the dirt, Papadopoulos shared that with an Australian diplomat, who eventually informed the FBI and kicked off the counterintelligence investigation into the Trump campaign.
Papadopoulos sent an e-mail to Trump adviser Stephen Miller the day after Mifsud reached out to him, telling Miller that he had some “interesting messages” coming in from Moscow. It’s not clear whether the offer from Mifsud was conveyed to Miller at a later point.
• Torshin-Trump Jr. In May, a former member of the Russian parliament named Aleksandr Torshin made repeated efforts to contact Donald Trump Jr, the candidate’s son. He sent multiple e-mails hoping to set up a meeting with Trump Jr when both were at an NRA convention in Kentucky. The two met briefly at a dinner associated with that event. It’s not clear that Torshin had any information to offer Trump Jr.
• Greenberg-Stone-Caputo. This is the new connection reported by the Post over the weekend.
A man calling himself Henry Greenberg approached Stone about having unspecified dirt on Clinton. Stone met with Greenberg, who asked for money in exchange for the alleged dirt. Stone was not part of the campaign in 2016, but had been connected to Greenberg, who also used the name “Henry Oknyansky”, by campaign official Michael Caputo. (It was Caputo’s business partner who connected him with Greenberg.) The meeting was a bust, Stone and Caputo told the Post.
Greenberg told the Post that there was a third person in that meeting, a man named Alexei, who claimed to have worked for the Clinton Foundation. “He told Mr Stone what he knew and what he want,” Greenberg said in a text message to Postreporters.
That the information allegedly dealt with the Clinton Foundation is interesting. Stone has been under fire for having claimed to have had a back channel with WikiLeaks, the organisation that ultimately dumped the information stolen from the DNC and Podesta. When Stone first claimed to have had contact with WikiLeaks’ Julian Assange, speaking before a Republican group in Florida in August 2016, he predicted that the next document cache released by WikiLeaks would centre on the Clinton Foundation. It did not.
What is not known is whether Greenberg had any contact with the Russian Government. He was himself a Russian national, but there is no indication at this point that either he or “Alexei” were working in co-ordination with that government.
• Agalarov-Veselnitskaya-Trump Jr-Manafort-Kushner. This is the infamous Trump Tower meeting. Emin Agalarov, a pop star and developer in Moscow, asked his associate Rob Goldstone to reach out to Trump Jr to pitch a meeting in which dirt on Clinton would be shared, courtesy of Agalarov’s intervention. (“If it’s what you say, I love it,” Trump Jr replied.) The meeting, centred on a Kremlin-connected attorney named Natalia Veselnitskaya, took place at Trump Tower in early June.
When the Senate Judiciary Committee released Trump Jr’s testimony from his appearance there last month, it became clear that the assertion that dirt existed — Veselnitskaya didn’t end up offering any, per both sides — wasn’t confined to Goldstone and Trump Jr. It is apparent that Agalarov and Trump Jr almost certainly spoke on the phone multiple times before that meeting and that Trump Jr informed both Trump’s son-in-law, Jared Kushner, and campaign chairman Paul Manafort of what was being offered.
The question is whether any of those three also informed Trump himself. There is good reason to think that he knew. The night and time for the meeting was set up, after calls between Trump Jr, Manafort and Kushner — and the day after Trump Jr had a call with a blocked number before agreeing to the meeting — Trump told the media that “I am going to give a major speech on probably Monday of next week, and we’re going to be discussing all of the things that have taken place with the Clintons”.
When that dirt didn’t materialise, the speech about Clinton the next Monday didn’t, either.
• Dvorkovich-Page. In July 2016, Trump campaign adviser Carter Page travelled to Russia to give a speech. On his return, he e-mailed Trump campaign staffer J.D. Gordon, offering to share “incredible insights and outreach I’ve received from a few Russian legislators and senior members of the presidential administration here”. In testimony before the House Intelligence Committee, Page said that his contact with Russian legislators was limited to a brief greeting with deputy prime minister Arkady Dvorkovich.
This is noteworthy not only because of the connection between Page and a senior government official but because of what other reports suggest about Page’s time in Russia. Specifically, the controversial dossier of reports compiled by former British intelligence officer Christopher Steele includes a report from mid-July, which alleges that Page met with a Russian official who “rais[ed] a dossier of ‘kompromat’” — compromising material — “the Kremlin possessed on Trump’s Democratic presidential rival, Hillary Clinton, and its possible release to the Republican’s campaign team”.
This allegation is unproven. Steele’s work on the dossier was funded by a law firm working for the DNC and the Clinton campaign. If Page was offered dirt, it is also not clear that he informed Gordon.
• Kilimnik-Manafort-Gates. Another connection between the Trump camp and Russia, although one not centred on compromising information, is Manafort’s long-time Ukrainian-based aide Konstantin Kilimnik. In July, as Page was in Moscow, Manafort e-mailed Kilimnik to offer private campaign briefings to oligarch Oleg Deripaska, for whom Manafort had done consulting work for years. Kilimnik is believed to have ties to Russian intelligence. Rick Gates, a long-time business partner of Manafort’s who also served as deputy campaign chairman, also had ties to Kilimnik. Kilimnik joined Gates and Manafort this month in being indicted on criminal charges by Mueller.
• Intelligence agencies-Stone. In August, Stone took up another cause: denying that the release of material stolen from the DNC the previous month was a function of the Russian Government. He wrote an article for Breitbart placing the blame instead on someone calling himself “Guccifer 2.0”, who released several documents from the cache of stolen documents in June. Guccifer then reached out to Stone on Twitter; the two carried on a brief exchange.
Guccifer 2.0 is now believed to have been a Russian intelligence officer, based on a slip-up in his efforts to anonymise his identity.
• WikiLeaks-Trump Jr. The next month, Trump Jr and WikiLeaks exchanged private messages on Twitter. None of those messages suggest that Trump Jr and the organisation co-ordinated the release of information damaging to Clinton. But the exchange occurred shortly before WikiLeaks began releasing the e-mails stolen from Podesta in early October.
So we are confident that the following people were offered or told about information allegedly incriminating Clinton:
George Papadopoulos; Roger Stone; Michael Caputo; Donald Trump Jr; Jared Kushner; Paul Manafort.
It is possible that the following other people knew about or received similar offers, too:
Stephen Miller; Carter Page; J.D. Gordon, if Page was offered dirt; Donald Trump.
Trump’s argument has long been that there was no collusion between his campaign and the Russian Government. That claim increasingly depends on how one defines “collusion”.
•Philip Bump is a correspondent for The Washington Post based in New York. Before joining The Post in 2014, he led politics coverage for the Atlantic Wire