Understanding the Trump-Russia Collusion Accusations

As the saying goes, where there’s smoke, there’s fire.  Investigations into the Trump-Russia collusion may produce a lot of smoke, however, there’s reason to believe that the apparent fire has smoldered.  There are three expert testimonies we should keep in mind.  The first came last month as Jim Clapper, the former Director of National Intelligence (DNI), admitted that he “did not see any smoking gun” evidence of Trump-Russia collusion.  Clapper would have seen the most highly classified intelligence reports, which would have included all intelligence on connections between the Trump campaign and Russian officials.  The second thing to keep in mind is that former CIA Director John Brennan testified in front of Congress that he was concerned about contact between Russian officials and members of the Trump campaign, although he did admit that the contacts may have also been benign.  Brennan provided loose accusations of wrongdoing, but no evidence.  Lastly, NSA Director Michael Rogers spoke to Congress in May about the status of US Cyber Command.  Senators attempted to bring up the case of Trump-Russia collusion, and Rogers flatly but politely refused to answer those questions, as his capacity in the hearing was that of the chief of US Cyber Command and not the director of NSA.  Since then, Rogers has not been back to Congress, however, he has provided some additional information.  In a classified town hall meeting with NSA officials, Rogers allegedly said, “There is no question that we [at NSA] have evidence of election involvement and questionable contacts with the Russians.”  John Schindler, former NSA analyst and counterintelligence officer, alleges that members of the Trump campaign directed Russian involvement in the 2016 election, according to NSA sources who have confirmed that information with him.  That’s a bold statement, if true; however, to date there has been no direct evidence submitted to Congress, so far as Congress has made it known.  If there was evidence submitted to Congress, then we would have confirmation of evidence by now.  I will reserve judgement regarding Schindler’s accusations until Rogers testifies in front of Congress, however, if NSA did in fact have damning evidence, it would have likely been reviewed by the DNI, in which case he would have confirmed the existence of such evidence.

Last week, the White House doubled down, saying that despite a year’s worth of investigations into Trump-Russia collusion, there is still no evidence.  But that’s not to say that there’s no legitimate smoke.  Some of the most grave accusations, which appear to be true, revolve around former national security advisor General Mike Flynn (USA, Ret.) and his off-the-books meetings with Russian officials.  To put these meetings in the proper context, we have to first understand General Flynn’s outlook on Russia.  In his book Field of Fight, General Flynn lays the groundwork for the future of the war on terrorism, which is dominated by defeating Iran.  He outlines Iran as the “lynch pin” upon which global terrorism proliferates.  He then delves into why Russia is allied with Iran (all of Iran’s nuclear reactors are Russian-constructed), especially when Iran is the major driver of terrorism in the Russian Federation.  It’s entirely because Russian President Vladimir Putin sees Iran as a thorn in the side of the United States.  Iran’s motto, after all, is “Death to America”.  Flynn intimates a potential future where the US and Russia can set aside their differences, whether that’s in the short term or for the long term, and work together to defeat the global jihad movement.  Russia is a natural ally in the fight against jihadists.  Global jihad, after all, sees Christian Russia as an enemy of Islam, especially after the Russian invasion of Afghanistan, followed by the decapitation and defeat of the Chechen jihad.  (One of Russia’s intelligence services in 2015 claimed that 20 to 25 percent of Islamic State fighters were from post-Soviet nations.  The defeat of the Islamic State in Syria and Iraq is likely to drive those fighters out of Syria and back home, where they will pose national security problems for the Russian Federation.)  But the problem is that Putin is not likely to seek cooperation with the West, even if it was offered by the Trump administration. (In previous articles, I’ve covered why and how Putin seeks to defeat the West.)  Although Flynn does not specifically address this, I do believe the Trump campaign believed that a detente with Russia was possible, that concessions could be made to Russia, and that Putin could ultimately be convinced to cooperate with the US to defeat the most pressing global threat, which is Islamic terror and the expansion of Islamic caliphates.

With that as our context, we know that Flynn was committed to defeating Iran, which meant that the Russians would have to be coaxed to end their support for the Ayatollah in Iran.  So what did Flynn do? He apparently engaged in a series of back channel meetings with Russian officials, in what I can only presume were attempts to set the conditions of Russian cooperation in the fight against global jihad.  When those meetings were discovered by the press, the White House also discovered that Flynn had mislead Vice President Pence regarding contacts with Russian officials, and Trump received a great amount of pressure to fire Flynn.  And then Flynn was gone.  Since then, we’ve discovered that Flynn did engage in previously undisclosed contacts with Russian officials, as did Attorney General Sessions as a senator, which is the smoke.  These were at least some the contacts that likely concerned former CIA Director Brennan.

Meanwhile, former FBI Director James Comey is set to testify in front of Congress next week.  It should revolve heavily around two topics.  The first is the nature and content of Comey’s conversations with President Trump regarding the investigation of former national security advisor Mike Flynn.  From what I’ve seen, the president didn’t interfere; he simply ‘hoped’ that Comey would stop the investigation.  From all available information, Trump never ordered an end to the investigation.  Should Comey testify that the President attempted to interfere with the FBI investigation, then we can expect serious calls to impeach President Trump. The White House may invoke what’s called executive privilege, which could prevent Comey from sharing details of his conversations with the president.  The second topic will likely explore evidence behind the Trump-Russia allegations.  (This week the White House reported that it would no longer answer questions about the Trump-Russia investigation, and would instead direct all questions  to President Trump’s personal attorney.)  Comey should have been briefed on the progress of the counterintelligence investigation being conducted by the FBI, and Comey’s testimony on the evidence is the first hinge upon which the inquiry rests.  It’s a real possibility that Comey defers to investigators regarding the possible evidence, and evades questions in light of the ongoing investigation.  Should Comey’s Congressional testimony fail to reveal fire, I’ll set my eyes on the next two hurdles for the Trump administration: the results of the FBI counterintelligence investigation and the inevitable Congressional testimony of NSA Director Mike Rogers.  It could be a bumpy few months.

Be sure to check out Forward Observer for more of Samuel Culper.

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Written by Samuel Culper

Samuel Culper is the Director of Forward Observer's Open Source Intelligence service. He's a former military intelligence NCO and contract Intelligence analyst with multiple tours in Iraq and Afghanistan. He lives in Texas.

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