Report: Russia Has Been Cultivating Trump To Be A Presidential Candidate For Years

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Fresh on the heels of the news that the F.B.I. is investigating former Trump campaign manager Paul Manafort’s ties to the Russian government, and a report that a secret server within the Trump Organization has apparently been covertly communicating frequently with servers at a Russian bank with ties to Putin, a report published by Mother Jones on Monday night alleges that a former Western spy uncovered sketchy connections between Donald Trump and Russia and has shared his findings with the F.B.I.

Reports David Corn at Mother Jones:

In June, the former Western intelligence officer—who spent almost two decades on Russian intelligence matters and who now works with a US firm that gathers information on Russia for corporate clients—was assigned the task of researching Trump’s dealings in Russia and elsewhere, according to the former spy and his associates in this American firm. This was for an opposition research project originally financed by a Republican client critical of the celebrity mogul. (Before the former spy was retained, the project’s financing switched to a client allied with Democrats.) “It started off as a fairly general inquiry,” says the former spook, who asks not to be identified. But when he dug into Trump, he notes, he came across troubling information indicating connections between Trump and the Russian government. According to his sources, he says, “there was an established exchange of information between the Trump campaign and the Kremlin of mutual benefit.”

This was, the former spy remarks, “an extraordinary situation.” He regularly consults with US government agencies on Russian matters, and near the start of July on his own initiative—without the permission of the US company that hired him—he sent a report he had written for that firm to a contact at the FBI, according to the former intelligence officer and his American associates, who asked not to be identified. (He declines to identify the FBI contact.) The former spy says he concluded that the information he had collected on Trump was “sufficiently serious” to share with the FBI.

Mother Jones has reviewed that report and other memos this former spy wrote. The first memo, based on the former intelligence officer’s conversations with Russian sources, noted, “Russian regime has been cultivating, supporting and assisting TRUMP for at least 5 years. Aim, endorsed by PUTIN, has been to encourage splits and divisions in western alliance.” It maintained that Trump “and his inner circle have accepted a regular flow of intelligence from the Kremlin, including on his Democratic and other political rivals.” It claimed that Russian intelligence had “compromised” Trump during his visits to Moscow and could “blackmail him.”

Corn goes on to note that “a senior US government official not involved in this case but familiar with the former spy tells Mother Jones that he has been a credible source with a proven record of providing reliable, sensitive, and important information to the US government.”

All of this — combined with things like Trump’s repeated fawning praise of Putin, his known business dealings with Russian oligarchs, Russian hackers hacking the DNC and Clinton campaign officials while Trump essentially encouraged them to do more hacking, the Trump campaign oddly gutting the GOP’s anti-Russia language from its platform, etc. — raises cause for genuine concern. However, in a report published tonight by the New York Times, the F.B.I. says it has conducted investigations and has thusfar been unable to find any clear link between Trump and the Russian government.

Law enforcement officials say that none of the investigations so far have found any conclusive or direct link between Mr. Trump and the Russian government. And even the hacking into Democratic emails, F.B.I. and intelligence officials now believe, was aimed at disrupting the presidential election rather than electing Mr. Trump.

Meanwhile, theories about what exactly may be going on between Trump and Russia are all over the place.

Oh, and as for how Trump’s been “compromised” by the Russians, well, there’s this rumor floating around…

Only one more week of this to go, guys.