Quick show of hands. How many of you have heard of Guccifer 2.0? Good– all of you. Guccifer was of course the on-line identity of the hackers allegedly connected to Russian intelligence who shared emails from the Democratic National Committee with Wikileaks during the 2016 presidential campaign, embarrassing Hillary Clinton.
Now, how many of you know that Guccifer 2.0’s phone was registered in Israel? Wait– I don’t see any hands!
That juicy fact is in the Senate’s Select Intelligence Committee report on Russian interference that came out last month. The committee says that Guccifer registered a twitter account to communicate to the media in June 2016 and the email address on the account “was connected to an Israeli phone number.” Gosh!
Guccifer’s phone is one of many Israel connections in the near-thousand-page Senate report that documents Russian attempts to interfere in the 2016 election.
The implication of these references is that Israelis with intelligence connections were facilitating links between Trump aides and Russian interferers.
But you never read about these efforts in our mainstream media, apart from coverage on investigative sites. Our media are not interested in the appearance that Israel also sought to interfere in the 2016 election.
This is especially remarkable because the most dramatic, and improper, case of Trump shifting actual foreign policy documented in the Senate report was his effort to thwart President Obama’s decision to finally allow a UN Security Council resolution critical of Israeli settlements to pass in December 2016. The President-elect pulled out all the stops to try to get a foreign government including Russia to veto the resolution. Trump himself got Egyptian president al-Sisi to withdraw the resolution. Then when the resolution was re-entered by other countries, Trump’s aides, led by Jared Kushner, who told the Senate committee the resolution was a “disaster,” sought to get the Russians to veto it. The Russians refused.
Trump was intervening for Israel even before he was in office. Samantha Power, Obama’s ambassador to the U.N. who allowed that resolution to pass 14-0 with a historical abstention, complained to the Senate committee: “It was very disconcerting and really as a citizen I urge it never to happen again that you put foreign governments in a position where they don’t know-report they are forum-shopping between a current President and a future President, because that’s what started to happen.”
What foreign government is doing the shopping in Power’s warning there? Clearly the government of Israel. But in all the media coverage of Russiagate, no one has picked up that part.
Search the report for Israel, and you will find 52 references, many of which suggest that Israelis may have played the middle man for the Trump campaign to Russians with official connections. Sadly, the Senate committee never fully explores the Israelis’ role. Russia is the bad guy here. And of course the media have never questioned that paradigm.
For instance, remember Maria Butina, the Russian spy who was deported after allegedly infiltrating the NRA and Republican causes? Her American collaborator and lover, the political operative Paul Erickson, who went to jail on related charges, met Butina– in Israel. The committee says:
On November 6, 2013, Erickson also began assisting Butina in applying for a visa to the United States to visit the NRA “for advice and guidance.” This is the first instance that the Committee is aware of in which Butina used the NRA as a basis for travel to the United States. The Committee found no evidence that this trip occurred, but Butina and Erickson met in Israel in early 2014, when they first became romantically involved. Over time, Erickson became integral to Butina’s activities and assisted her in developing relationships with individuals and organizations involved in U.S. politics…
There is also a long section in the report about the effort of the Psy Group, an Israeli private intelligence outfit with a lot of former Mossad agents on board, to cut a deal with the Trump campaign to dig up stuff on Hillary Clinton. The project apparently fell apart before the election.
The Psy Group was critical to the Senate because it worked for the Russian oligarch Oleg Deripaska, for whom Paul Manafort, Trump’s former campaign manager, also worked. Deripaska was a target of the Senate report.
Trump’s team wanted Israeli help on dirty tricks. In March 2016, Trump campaign aide Rick Gates met in Washington with George Birnbaum, an American rightwing operative with connnections to the Psy Group–who had served as Benjamin Netanyahu’s chief of staff and is said to be Netanyahu’s good friend. At that meeting, Gates raised two challenges to the campaign: “opposition research on Hillary Clinton” and using social media to influence Republican delegates who were leery of Trump.
Gates… asked Birnbaum whether there was “any Israel[i] technology that could help us with some of these goals?”
The committee notes: “The reasoning behind Gates’s stated preference for ‘Israeli technology’ is not known to the Committee.”
It goes without saying that if a former chief of staff to Vladimir Putin met a Trump aide at the Mandarin Oriental hotel in Washington to discuss dirty tricks in the 2016 campaign, and the Trump aide sought Russian technology on social media, it would be front page news.
But the Senate chose not to explore the issue, and the media is also indifferent.
George Birnbaum told the Senate that Israeli companies could do things other hackers couldn’t do because of Israel’s security culture.
These guys came out of the military intelligence army unit, and it’s like coming out with a triple Ph.D. from MIT. The amount of knowledge these guys have in terms of cybersecurity, cyber-intelligence . . . they come out of a unit in which their minds in terms of understanding cybersecurity-the algorithms that they can create-it’s just so beyond what you could get [with] a normal education that it’s just unique … there are hundreds and hundreds of Israeli start-up companies that the founders are guys who came out of this unit.
But again, that role is not fully explored by the committee. The Senate report only mentions in passing a former Israeli intelligence officer named Walter Soriano, who worked for Deripaska and put Deripaska in contact with the Psy Group.
Back in June, Forensic News reported that Soriano was the middle man between Deripaska and Trump aide Mike Flynn. Soriano had connections to several Israeli intelligence companies that do “hacking and surveillance,” that may have played a part in the Russian interference, Forensic News said.
Circles, OSY Technologies, and NSO Group aren’t the only Israeli intelligence companies with unexplained ties to Trump campaign officials and Russian oligarchs…U.S. investigators have focused on whether these Israeli intelligence companies operated as intermediaries for alleged coordination between the Trump Campaign and Russia.
Mike Flynn was part of the Trump team’s effort to knock down the UN Security Council resolution against Israeli settlements, and he was later convicted of lying to the FBI about it.
The Senate report goes into depth on the Security Council resolution. “Trump took to Twitter and Facebook to ·voice his opposition to the measure, and the members of his Transition Team likewise began planning to try and either delay or stop the vote, or to convince another country to veto the resolution.”
Jared Kushner told the Committee the entire Trump team was “very focused” on the UN resolution, even though Trump wouldn’t become president for another month.
I remember during that time we were very focused on the UN resolution. . . . It was a disaster of a resolution.. . I remember we were trying to figure out if we should reach out to Russia or who should reach out to Russia. But like I said, we didn’t know who to coordinate with that could actually be effective on it, which again, hopefully, goes to show that we did not collude with them during the campaign. So we didn’t know who to call.
And Kushner assigned “both foreign policy and senior leadership of the Transition Team to work the phones,” the Committee says. Kushner testified:
I remember I was talking to Flynn. I was talking to Nikki Haley. I was talking to Rex Tillerson. I was talking to Reince Priebus. I was talking to Steve Bannon. And we were all making phone calls trying to do everything we could. But keep in mind, again, we were a little disorganized and we also were trying to figµre out how to stop something without having the context to really properly do it. So we were just trying to figure it out as quickly as we could.
However thin Kushner’s Russian Rolodex was, he has a lot of connections to Israel. His own family gave money to Israeli settlement organizations. And Benjamin Netanyahu was a Kushner family friend who slept in their New Jersey house.
I could go on and on quoting the references to Israel in the Senate report, including those of former Trump foreign policy aide George Papadopoulos.
But the point is clear: These plain suggestions of foreign influence are never discussed by our media and only glanced upon by the Senate investigation, while the Russian connections are the source of endless discussion and a new cold war.
Even though the Russian interference looks to have been a drop in an ocean of social media political activities, like this lame ad showing Jesus armwrestling Satan/Clinton–
It is hard to say how the Trump administration has acted in Russia’s interests. When it is demonstrable that Trump was acting in Israel’s interests and bucking Obama — with the Russians refusing to help out– before Trump even got into office. And four years later our president is way more popular in Israel than he is here…
H/t Donald Johnson, James North, and Adam Horowitz.