Last week we took a deep dive into the counterintelligence concerns that arose from the initial reporting about the Intelligence Community whistleblower’s complaint. Specifically, that the manner in which the President communicates with foreign leaders, as well as others, creates a potential counterintelligence threat for the US in his attempt to completely control and compartment the information regarding the calls in an attempt to stop embarrassing leaks to the news media.
Thanks to new reporting, we now have access to the Memorandum of the Conversation (MEMCON) between the President and Ukrainian President Zelensky that memorializes the substance of the conversation for the US government. This MEMCON is not a verbatim transcript of the call and it is marked with that caveat in several places throughout the document.
A lot of the reporting and analysis today is correctly focused on the President asking Ukrainian President Zelensky for a favor in response to President Zelensky indicating they were ready to buy more American weapons. This focus and analysis is now rooted within the formal impeachment inquiry that Speaker Pelosi announced this week. I think it is missing the larger counterintelligence questions, of which there are four.
1) What is the Intelligence Community whistleblower’s complaint actually about? Is it solely about this phone calls and events related to it or is it about this and other things?
2) Who turned the President and his private attorney, Rudy Giuliani, onto debunked 5 year old Russian disinformation meant to muddy the water around Putin’s seizing Crimea and invading eastern Ukraine?
3) Why has this now been blended into the debunked Russian disinformation that it was Ukraine and not Russia that hacked the Democratic National Committee’s systems in 2016 as part of a Democratic Party/Clinton Campaign/Ukrainian plot to steal the US election and blame it on Russia?
4) What does Ken Vogel get out of laundering this debunked Russian disinformation through The New York Times?
We cannot really answer the first question right now. We may or may not know more after Vice Admiral Maguire, the Acting Director of National Intelligence, testifies before the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence (HPSCI) and the whistleblower’s complaint is actually forwarded to this committee and the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence (SSCI).
News media has linked the whistleblower’s complaint to the call between the President and Ukrainian President Zelensky and placed it as central to the complaint. But we honestly do not know if this is the case and will not until the investigation progresses and more information comes out.
Similarly, we cannot really answer the fourth question – what is Vogel getting out of his part in this – right now. This is, however, a major issue that journalists should actually be looking into given that this material has been repeatedly debunked.
The second question is also something that news journalists need to be digging into. The accusation that Vice President Biden’s son Hunter, as well as Secretary Kerry’s step-son, were engaging in unethical and illegal behavior in Ukraine appears to have originated in a May 2014 Russian News & Information Agency-Novosti (RIA-Novosti) article. Here’s the information: https://twitter.com/PaulaChertok/status/1127265131098824704
This disinformation was put into play in a Russian state-backed media outlet after Putin seized Crimea and invaded eastern Ukraine. It was intended to obscure Putin’s actions, muddy the water, and dirty up both Vice President Biden and Secretary Kerry in advance of their potentially undertaking 2016 runs for the presidency.
The question is how did this obscure bit of five year old Russian disinformation get to the President and his private attorney and who gave it to them?
I cannot answer that, but it would be a good question for both journalists and congressional investigators to ask, given that this disinformation is now front and center as a result of both the whistleblower’s complaint, and the now formal impeachment inquiry.
Finally, the fourth question – how did this get blended with the equally debunked DNC server conspiracy ? Especially, as both the President and Rudy Giuliani have decided to further mix it with an also debunked conspiracy theory that Hunter Biden, with help from his father or because of his father being vice president, was able to illegally make a billion dollar private equity deal in the People’s Republic of China.
Moreover, the President, during his 4:00 PM EDT press conference this week, further expanded the conspiracy theory by accusing four Democratic senators of an ongoing Democratic conspiracy to somehow influence Ukraine to do something corrupt to the detriment of the US. In reality three of the four senators – Durbin, Leahy, and Menendez – had sent a letter to Ukraine’s prosecutor general in May 2018 to express concerns that the Ukrainian government had stopped cooperating in 2018 with Special Counsel Mueller’s investigation as evidence.
The fourth senator, Senator Murphy, went on a congressional delegation trip to Ukraine over the past summer and met with President Zelensky. What actually happened is the exact opposite of what the three Democratic senators were writing about, which is that they were concerned that Ukraine had stopped cooperating because they were afraid that if they continued to do so, the President would cut off the military aid they desperately need to combat Putin’s invasion of eastern Ukraine. Senator Murphy had nothing to do with that letter.
If you’re really confused now, you should be. That is the whole point of disinformation – to make it impossible to discern what is true so that anything, like a blend of several debunked conspiracy theories, could be possible.
Perhaps the fifth question should be why the President and his private attorney are undertaking actions that significantly impact US national security and foreign policy based on debunked Russian disinformation and debunked conspiracy theories?