SPYGATE: The Characters You Need to Know
Authored by: Matt Palumbo
“Spygate” has been the big story of 2018, but that doesn’t mean it has been easy to follow. The scandal has more characters than a Harry Potter novel, and with our 24/7 news cycle, has more moving parts than the average person has time to keep track of.
One of the most common requests Dan and I receive is to put out some informational content to help keep track of all the relevant characters in the “Spygate” scandal, and how they intersect. To do that, I thought it would make the most sense to show all the most relevant connections in flowcharts, with brief explanations of each bubble and their connections to the others below.
Obama’s campaign arm Organizing for Action paid $972,000 to the law firm Perkins Coie, which funneled that money to Fusion GPS. The Clinton campaign paid Perkins Coie $5.1 million in 2016, while the DNC shelled out $4.5 million. Most funds were for legal services, but at least $168,000 of it made its way to Christopher Steele so he could commission his anti-Trump dossier.
Former MI6 spy Christopher Steele was simultaneously working for Fusion GPS where he was researching Russian collusion, and the FBI, where he was presenting his faux evidence. Meanwhile, Fusion had some interesting Russian connections of their own. Russian lawyer Natalia Veselnitskaya (from the infamous “Trump Tower” meeting with Donald Trump Jr.) was working with Fusion to defend the firm Prevezon, which had been accused of laundering money for the Russian government. At least one person worked on the Prevezon case and also aided Steele with his dossier, a man named Ed Baumgartner.
It appears as if Veselnitskaya’s meeting with Trump Jr. was just to give the mere appearance of Russian collusion – as evidenced by the fact that she met with Fusion GPS founder Glenn Simpson the day of, and day after the Trump Tower meeting. Simpson claims the two never discussed the meeting, but are we to really believe he was helping Steele “prove” Russian collusion while working with a Russian who just met with Trump’s son, and this meeting didn’t come up in conversation?
Even more suspicious, during the Trump Tower meeting, Veselnitskaya was accompanied by translator Anatoli Samochornov, who was previously an interpreter for Hillary Clinton, John Kerry and Barack Obama.
And then there’s who helped organize the meeting; publicist Rob Goldstone at the request of Aras and Emin Agalarov, a father and son duo who knew Trump through the Miss Universe pageants. It was during a 2013 Moscow trip for those pageants that Trump would stay at a Ritz-Carlton (as did the Agalarovs), which would be the location where the fictitious “golden showers” story in Christopher Steele’s dossier allegedly occurred. It’s thus highly likely that the “golden showers” lie originated with the Agalarovs.
Steele also had an “in” to the DOJ through Bruce and Nellie Ohr, a married couple. Nellie worked with Fusion on the dossier, while Bruce was employed at the DOJ. Their relationship was not disclosed when the dossier was presented as evidence to surveil Carter Page. Nellie worked with Fusion since 2015, which makes it possible she was one of the FBI contractors illegally mining NSA databases for information on Republican presidential candidates. When Robert Mueller’s Special Counsel would begin in 2017, Bruce kept Mueller’s right-hand-man Andrew Weissman “in the loop” regarding his continued contact with Steele.
Steele had friends in the Clinton State Department through Victoria Nuland and Jonathan Winer. Nuland was Obama’s Assistant Secretary of State for European and Eurasian Affairs, and claims to have received the Steele dossier at the State Department and then passed it on to the FBI before their investigation into the Trump campaign started.
Nuland told CBS that “in the middle of July , when [Steele] was doing this other work [on Trump] and became concerned . . . he passed two to four pages of short points of what he was finding and our immediate reaction to that was, this is not our purview. This needs to go to the FBI if there is any concern here that one candidate or the election as a whole might be influenced by the Russian Federation. That’s something for the FBI to investigate. And that was our reaction when we saw this.”
The dossier made its way to Nuland through a mutual contact, Jonathan Winer, also a State Department employee. Winer later admitted to doing pro bono work for the Clinton Global Initiative while he was working at the State Department and exchanging information with Steele.
While Steele passed on his dossier to Winer, Winer had one to give Steele. There was a second dossier, authored by Cody Shearer, a long-time fixer for the Clintons. Shearer’s dossier is suspiciously similar to Steele’s, and even contains the same bogus “golden showers” story. According to The Guardian, Steele passed the Shearer memo on to the FBI in October 2016, because it “corroborated” what he had learned from his independent sources. Garnering the same information from separate sources seems like a slam-dunk in verifying a claim, but Steele and Shearer had the same bogus information fed to them. What are the chances of that?
Former UN ambassador Samantha Powers, in the words of the Washington Free Beacon, “appears to be central to efforts by top Obama administration officials to identify individuals named in classified intelligence community reports related to Trump and his presidential transition team, according to multiple sources.” Power revealed the names of at least 260 people during her last year as UN ambassador and increased her pace to one per day in the final months of Obama’s presidency. She would later deny making those requests, meaning that she’s either lying, or someone else was unmasking members of the Trump campaign in her name.
It wasn’t just Democrats finding themselves acquainted with Steele. British ambassador Andrew Wood knew both Chris Steele, and John McCain. In November 2016, he participated in a Canadian conference also attended by McCain and his associate David Kramer. At this conference, McCain and Kramer were briefed by the British Ambassador Andrew Wood about making contact with Steele regarding the dossier. Kramer would later obtain the materials from Steele and deliver it to McCain.
George Papadapoulos was a key target of those looking to frame the Trump campaign in giving the appearance of Russian collusion.
Papadopoulos’ story began in March 2016 when he was named a foreign policy adviser to the Trump campaign with a supposed emphasis on improving U.S. relations with Russia. During this time, Papadopoulos traveled to Italy and met Joseph Mifsud, a Maltese professor of diplomacy based in London. On April 26, 2016, Mifsud met with Papadopoulos in London and told him he had damaging information from the Russians on Hillary Clinton. One contact he claimed to know well was Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov.
Interestingly, one connection we know that Mifsud has is with the Clinton Foundation, whom he’s donated to in the past.
In May, after Mifsud falsely told Papadopoulos about the Russians having dirt on Clinton—something Mifsud now claims he never said—Papadopoulos went to the Kensington Wine Rooms in London to meet with Australia’s top diplomat in the United Kingdom, Alexander Downer (at Downer’s request). Downer was previously part of Hakluyt, a secretive British intelligence firm founded by former MI6 members. Downer remained associated with the firm following their departure, and this connects Downer to the British intelligence actors in this drama.
During their discussion, Papadopoulos told Downer (allegedly while drunk) about the Russians having material that would damage Clinton, which Downer later reported to the FBI. That bogus claim, of course, was planted in Papadapoulos’ head by Mifsud. The FBI has used this as cover for why they opened a counterintelligence operation into the Trump campaign. After reports of this meeting surfaced, The New York Times commented, “It is unclear whether Mr. Downer was fishing for that information that night in May 2016.” Unclear to only the New York Times, perhaps.
Like Mifsud, Downer is connected to the Clinton Foundation, but to an overwhelmingly greater extent. Downer used his influence as ambassador to broker a $25 million donation from the Australian government to the Clinton Foundation in 2007. Downer also potentially has a connection to Fusion, as Glenn Simpson described the “Downer/Papadpoulos” meeting in Senate testimony before news of the meeting was made public.
Meanwhile, FBI spy Stefan Halper had met with Papadaopoulos two months prior to the election, and immediately asked him if he’d known anything about Hillary’s emails. In other words, he was trying to fish out information that Downer didn’t. Papadopoulos says Halper wasn’t the only suspicious person to approach him. There were two others. Papadopoulos’ wife, Simona Mangiante, told The Daily Caller that one of the contacts offered to pay him $30,000 a month during his time with the Trump team. Papadapoulos’ wife said that one of the people who contacted Papadapoulos was Sergei Millian, a businessman that’s cited in Steele’s dossier as “Source D.” “Source D” is where Steele claims to have sourced the “golden showers” story from. How it was communicated from the Agalarovs to Millian is a mystery.
British intelligence agency GCHQ was headed by Robert Hannigan, who resigned shortly after Trump was inaugurated without any notice. During the campaign, Hannigan intercepted communications of the Trump team, and passed them onto the CIA’s John Brennan, who then passed them on to the FBI. Brennan takes responsibility for sparking the FBI’s counterintelligence operation, in direct contradiction to the thesis that Papadapoulos was responsible.
As previously mentioned, Stefan Halper was the FBI’s spy in the Trump campaign. He’d worked for the CIA decades prior, and had connections to the British intelligence agency MI6 (where Steele previously worked) through a man named Sir Richard Dearlove. Halper believed that a Hillary victory would be better for U.S/U.K. relations, and given the number of actors from British intelligence, perhaps they shared similar motives.
In 2012, Joseph Mifsud worked with Claire Smith, a member of the U.K. Joint Intelligence Committee. As a member of the Joint Intelligence Committee, Smith participated in overseeing all British intelligence agencies, thus meaning she’s a high ranking member in British intelligence. This makes it unlikely that Mifsud was a Russian spy – and makes it more likely he’s part of the world of Halper, Steele, and others.
These are just the characters in the “set-up” stage of the Spygate scandal. For the tangled web of actors in the Robert Mueller special counsel, stay tuned for our next series of flowcharts.
And in the meantime, preorder a copy of “Spygate: The Attempted Sabotage of Donald Trump.”