Donald Trump Jr. seeks to cancel the absence of his appointment last year with a Russian lawyer who would have damaging information about Hillary Clinton. “It was like that,” Sean Hannity told Fox News on Tuesday.
“There was nothing to tell.” But what we know of the meeting – to which it was involved in the way it was carried out – is consistent with what intelligence analysts expect the opening of an operation influences Russian looks like.
It carries all the features of a carefully planned and orchestrated soft professionnelment intelligence field carefully designed to assess receptivity, leaving room for a plausible déconfession if the approach is rejected.
And the willingness of Trump’s campaign to make the meeting – and more importantly, his failure to report the episode to US authorities – may have been exactly the green light Russia was seeking to launch a phase of intervention More aggressive in the United States elections.
Let’s start with the interlocutor: Russian lawyer Natalia Veselnitskaya. When the organization of the meeting, music promoter and knowledge of the Trump family, Rob Goldstone, make reference to a “Russian government lawyer.” Both the Kremlin and Veselnitskaya denied any association.
What is indisputable is that she pressed for the United States to repeal the sanctions of the Magnitsky law against the Russian authorities, which regularly represents the interests of the Moscow Board and its clients include the vice president of the Russian railways.
My reading, as someone who is part of the US intelligence community for over four decades, is that Veselnitskaya is probably too well connected to independently opening such a high-level and sensitive gathering.
If so, the use of known associates of Trump and the Kremlin (Aras and Emin Agalarov) to help make presentations and suggestion, in the Goldstone account, he wanted to share “official documents and information” as “part of Russia and his Government support “to Trump could have marked on important issues.
Their efforts to meet with Trump partners would undoubtedly have attracted the attention of the Russian authorities at some point, taking into account e-mail surveillance of the Russian government and other means of surveillance. The Kremlin would have serious air of a person who would take care of a way that would surely hurt the ongoing Russian intelligence efforts related to the campaign.
A better explanation is that Veselnitskaya is quite far from Moscow theaters to make it a good fit as an intermediary in an intelligence operation – as a “cut” with limited knowledge of the larger scheme and an “access agent”. And to test the interest of a priority objective in cooperation.
She may have had her own meeting agenda: to press the Magnitsky Act, which affects some of her clients. However, his agenda is in the interest of the Kremlin – and that would have added another layer of plausible denial.
The practice of Russian intelligence is to co-opt such a person. News Friday that was accompanied by Rinat Akhmetshin, a Russian-American pressure group suspected of having ties to Russian intelligence (which he denies), reinforces this reading.