How our Intel Agencies Screwed us by Letting Sessions, Trumpies get away with Russia Scheme

By Juan Cole | (Informed Comment) | – –

Adam Entous, Ellen Nakashima and Greg Miller at WaPo report from a US intelligence source that former Russian ambassador to the US, Sergei Kislyak, told Moscow that he had discussed campaign-related matters with Jeff Sessions twice in the summer of 2016. This revelation directly contradicts Sessions’ testimony before Congress. If the allegation is correct, Sessions is guilty of a crime, perjury, the same crime of which the Republicans in the House of Representatives impeached Bill Clinton. Only, like, Sessions may actually have committed, like, a crime.

Me, I’m angry. I’m angry because the US intel community had this information in summer of 2016 and they’re only leaking it now. You mean they could have blown the whistle on the Trump gang over the Russian contacts and they didn’t bother? It is too late now. Getting rid of Sessions won’t change anything. Trump will just appoint another stealth white supremacist.

Now, their bosses are Trump appointees and most of this stuff will be ordered suppressed.

Second, let’s acknowledge the hypocrisy of all the condemnations of Ed Snowden over leaking the *illegal* activities of the National Security Agency, and the acceptance of this leak about Sessions. Nobody is threatening the WaPo journalists with jail for publishing the information on Sessions, and nor should they. But tell me how all this is different from the Snoweden affair in form (Snowden obviously released lots more information).

Observers are pointing out that all the intel community has is Kislyak’s cables back to Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov, not a transcript of the actual meeting. This is true. But why would Kislyak misrepresent the meetings to his bosses? Moreover, if the NSA didn’t actually record their conversations, after recording millions of innocent Americans, then we want our money back.

It should be pointed out that Sessions has trouble telling the truth about his meetings with Kislyak. First, he got the number of those meetings wrong. Now, the substance.

In the wake of the posting of Don Trump Jr.’s emails (by Don Trump Jr.) about the meeting arranged by the Agalarovs via Rob Goldstone with Natalia Vesselnitskya and several other Russians lobbying for a repeal of the Magnitsky Act, this revelation about Sessions takes on greater significance.

Russia had dozens of points of contact with Trump campaign officials in 2016 and one of Vladimir Putin’s major preoccupations was having the Magnitsky Act repealed. It allows the placing of sanctions on Russian businessmen and officials accused of major human rights violations. The Putin government is corrupt and underpinned by billionaire cronyism. Governments like that of Russia (the same is true in the Middle East) can create billionaires by granting certain licenses and smoothing the way. But this sort of corruption requires the ability to launder the money in foreign banks, which the Magnitsky Act prevents. It is therefore a major irritant to Putin’s crony capitalism.

When Congress passed the act in 2012, Putin responded by banning the adoption by US parents of Russian children. That is why Trump said he talked with Putin about adoption and that is why Don Jr said adoption was the topic for his meeting with Vesselnitskaya. “Adoption” is a code word for repealing the Magnitsky Act.

Had Hillary Clinton been elected, she almost certainly would have expanded the Magnitsky Act.

So the quid pro quo was that the FSB (Russian intelligence) and Russian white hat hackers working at least indirectly for the FSB would hack Clinton-related email accounts searching for dirt and would release the emails to the public, to help Trump win.

In turn, Trump would have Congress repeal the Magnitsky Act or order Treasury to cease enforcing it, and then the Putin cronies could again move their money around freely without fear of the US Treasury Department.

The NSA and the CIA watched all this happen in real time. The Trumpies were brazen, not bothering to use cut-outs and meeting directly with principals like Kislyak, whom any normal person would have known was under intense surveillance and had to report the meetings back home.

And they screwed us over by not revealing it. Maybe they tried to get Barack Obama to say something and the president was too much of a gentleman. If so, that was the time to start leaking, guys.

Now we’re screwed, Trump is president and it is too late. We spend like $75 billion a year on those intel agencies. And this is what we get. All the telephone calls in Jamaica are recorded. But a major international conspiracy to undermine US democracy? With that they couldn’t be bothered. Or who knows, maybe they preferred Donald to Hillary. If so, they aren’t actually very, you know, Intelligent.


Related video:

Intercepted Intel: Sessions Discussed Donald Trump Campaign With Russian | The Last Word | MSNBC

14 Responses

  1. Regarding: “Maybe they tried to get Barack Obama to say something and the president was too much of a gentleman.”

    I admire a lot of things about Mr. Obama. Other things, such as his deference to Wall Street and AIPAC and big Pharma I don’t admire, but can understand. But this seems inexplicable. I’ve no idea what happened, but saying “too much of a gentleman” does not seem like an explanation.

  2. It would be intelligent to compare the political influence on the USA of the head of state of Russia with that of the head of the state of Israel who spoke to the whole USA Congress politically.

  3. There’s an even darker question about the NSA brought up by The Intercept and other outlets. A dozen years ago, they were discussing the secret installation of backdoors in commercial software that the NSA could exploit using its secret keys. The problem is, the keys got out. While it’s mainly been used for normal crimes of greed, now the accusation is that it was used by the Russian government to attempt entry into the voter databases of American states.

    This may explain the slowness of the NSA response to this ongoing situation. They weren’t eager to admit that their own Orwell-ware had become a weapon against your ability to vote.

    Not only were the targets mostly Democratic Party strongholds, but we know the Republican electoral officials have an overarching agenda to use any excuse to disrupt voting by likely Democrats (= minorities). So the discovery of the break-ins (against Democrats) would have been used by those cynical officials to impose even more restrictions on voting and attacks on voting rolls (against Democrats). So the break-ins did not even have to succeed to help the GOP. Which means that when Obama finally went to Republican Congressmen to issue a joint statement during the election, said Congressmen had everything to gain by spurning him as they did. Attacks on registration are not just helping Trump (which many on the Left consider worth any price just to destroy Hillary Clinton), they’re helping the entire Republican Party win elections at every level.

    • “On the other hand, Trump himself came out strongly in favor of the Magnitsky law earlier this year, a piece of news that was then and remains now a weird fit with the collusion narrative.” Matt Tabbai, Rolling Stone 7/14 link to

      Everything in your comment, 390, except the last sentence looks to be a masterpiece. I’ve been searching for a short cogent statement explaining two things 1)the ShadowBrokers leak, and 2)one particular Snowden tweet. I’ve assumed they’re about the same thing (my problem was I just could never figure out what server ES was talking about).

      “Edward Snowden stated on Twitter on August 16, 2016 that ‘circumstantial evidence and conventional wisdom indicates Russian responsibility’ and that the leak ‘is likely a warning that someone can prove US responsibility for any attacks that originated from this malware server summarizing that it looks like ‘somebody sending a message that an escalation in the attribution game could get messy fast’.” link to

      What in the world were you talking about in parentheses in the last sentence??

      Last time I posted two comments under one article here it worked, but I’ll digress to Lauren’s reaction today cause I’m feeling skittish. Sorry to have to out the prof (if my suspicion’s correct), but did anyone else ever think sometimes he does super subtle satire? Just to get anyone to write something intelligent?!?!

  4. We heard lots about tRump’s Russian connections during the election. A few more salacious details would not have made any difference.

  5. It’s really important that those of who wish to see Trump, Sessions and the rest of them gone be accurate and wary or we will play into the Trump-defenders’ hands.
    1. You don’t know who leaked this story. It may well be a part of an effort to get rid of Sessions so a new (non-tainted) AG can shut down the special counsel probe as unnecessary since DOJ can do it without a “compromised” AG.
    2. The text of the WAPO story does not support the headlines. What it says is that Sessions is said to have discussed a Trump administration’s likely Russia policy not that Sessions discussed the campaign itself or any intervention in it.
    3. Why attack potential allies (the intelligence agencies)? Is it really the job of the intelligence agencies to “leak” the story if Obama –the president and obviously a Clinton ally–chose not to do anything with the information? Plus, last year, would there have been risk to sources and methods in doing so? (That horse left the barn a few months ago with the Flynn story so it is no longer a consideration.)
    There are a lot of smart people who will work to protect this administration not because they care about Trump but to advance their own ends which have nothing to do with Russia. Don’t underestimate them.

  6. I’m disappointed in Juan Cole – this is utterly absurd. To believe that releasing the Podesta emails turned the election over to Trump is idiotic. There is no evidence for it–only supposition. STOP BLAMING RUSSIA FOR HILLARY CLINTON’S ABJECT INCOMPETENCE IN RUNNING A CAMPAIGN IN WHICH SHE LOST THOUSANDS OF WHITE OBAMA VOTERS IN THE RUST BELT. Clinton lost due to her unpopularity, her incompetent campaign, voter suppression in certain states and many people sitting out the election due to lack of enthusiasm. I thought Prof. Cole was smarter than this.

    • It’s astonishing the blind spot certain segments of the Intelligentsia have for Hillary Clinton. Never has their been a more venal or vicious or corrupt or condescending candidate for the presidency (well maybe there was but no one of her ilk has won the presidency in our lifetimes). Maybe Lyndon B. Johnson scores similarly (the same guy around for the JFK assassination who appointed the Warren Commission to bury the true story). Unlike his wife, Bill Clinton was always been more interested in adding to the notches on his bedpost than money. He was corrupt and political up to the point it gave him free rein in the bedrooms of the nation. HRC’s appetite for lucre however ill-gotten and power at whatever the price had no bounds.

      On top of it all HRC ran a terrible campaign. Even now she won’t take responsibility for her own poor decisions.

      As bad as Trump is, he’s not intrinsically a nation-wrecking, World War II risking menace. If he doesn’t improve his performance in office, he’s just a one-term president. I imagine that if he projects losing the second term elections, he’ll stand down and let someone else run. There’s nothing to be particularly alarmed at.

    • Your response is a distraction from the substance of Prof. Cole’s article.
      First, you mention Podesta, and nowhere does Podesta appear in this article.
      The main point:
      “I’m angry because the US intel community had this information in summer of 2016 and they’re only leaking it now. You mean they could have blown the whistle on the Trump gang over the Russian contacts and they didn’t bother?”
      The intelligence agencies are supposed to protect us from enemies foreign and domestic.
      Any foreign agent that interferes in an election of the US is an enemy.
      By not releasing this information to the citizens of the United States, our intelligence agencies gave aid and comfort to our enemies, helping those enemies interfere with the election.

      We did not have a free election, because this vital information was concealed.

  7. Unfortunately, I am among those who think the war was already lost by the time the Russian connections were verified. Trump owned the media between his Tweets and Fox. Anything that President Obama did would have been subject to repackaging by the Russians and the sympathetic Fox media where the ends justify the means. The republican controlled Congress certainly would not have supported any actions. Lastly, their is a strong inertia among intelligence agencies to avoid taking any action which might compromise their ability to get further information from their sources. In Snowden’s case that was a moot point since he made everything public. In Session’s case, at what point do you go public with the information and how is it disseminated?

    One positive note is that the whole election is being analyzed and several problem areas have been identified. Enough of the country is concerned that support will be given to making needed corrections. Our form of government has been compromised and so far it is holding up as the press is still able to shine spotlights on the troubled areas.

    Thanks for your thoughtful piece and I look forward to continued coverage of our political system.

  8. Considering the number of times the US has meddled in the elections of another country or worse, engineered a regime change of a country that did not follow Washington’s diktats, I find this quite an entertaining and hilariously funny show. A tempest in a teapot. Talk about the kettle calling the pot black……

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