The Credulous Right’s Latest Dribbling Water Pistol

Longtime GOP operative Rick Gates told Alex Van der Zwaan that Konstantin Kilimnik, the Oleg Deripaska go-between with whom Trump campaign manager Paul Manafort discussed providing private briefings on the campaign, “was a former Russian Intelligence Officer with the GRU.” The House Intelligence Report, having reviewed the evidence against Carter Page, George Papadopoulos, Mike Flynn, and (to a much lesser extent) Paul Manafort complains that, “the Trump campaign was not notified that members of the campaign were potential counterintelligence concerns.” The report suggests (Trump’s hiring of Flynn after Obama warned him notwithstanding) that the “campaign was unable to address the problems with each campaign member and was ignorant about the potential national security concerns.”

Certainly, these Republicans give real credence to the possibility that Trump’s campaign (the campaign that did virtually no vetting and liked aides who would work “for free”) was infiltrated by Russian spies.

Nevertheless, the right wing noise machine (including former Federal prosecutor Andrew McCarthy!!!) is pushing a new conspiracy theory: that George Papadopoulos was planted by either the Deep State or the Hillary Clinton campaign. One version of the story is being pitched by Stephan Roh. Roh is, by all appearances, Joseph Mifsud’s handler.

Then there’s the Beeb piece advancing the story of Joseph Mifsud (ignore the repetitive annoying music and John Schindler presence). It provides details on the role played by German born Swiss financier and lawyer Stephan Roh. Roh has three ties to Mifsud. In 2014, Roe started lecturing at the London Academy of Diplomacy where Misfud worked. In the same year, he bought the Roman institution Misfud helped manage. And then, in 2016, when George Papadopoulos was being targeted, Roh was on a panel with Papadopoulos’ two handlers.

That same month, Mifsud was in Moscow on a panel run by the Kremlin-backed Valdai Club with Timofeev and the third man, Dr Stephan Roh, a German multi-millionaire.

Mifsud and Roh interlock: in 2014, Roh became a visiting lecturer at the London Academy of Diplomacy. Roh bought Link Campus University, a private institution in Rome where Mifsud was part of the management and Mifsud became a consultant at Roh’s legal firm.

The Beeb piece goes on to describe how Roh bought a British nuclear consultancy too. When the British scientist behind it balked at cozying up to Russia, he was fired, but it appears to still be used as a cut-out.

Again, none of this is new: Russia just spent a lot of money to set up some fronts. The amount of money floating around and the ability to buy into a title by buying an old castle do make it easier, however.

But he’s out with a book that — in addition to describing how he was surveilled when he came to the US in the wake of the revelation of the Papadopoulos plea last year — alleges that Papadopoulos was actually planted in the Trump campaign by the FBI to elicit outreach to Russia.

Roh and his co-author Thierry Pastor, who also knows Mifsud, write in the book that, upon arriving in New York City with his family in October 2017, “one of the co-authors” was “fished from the passport control” line at John F. Kennedy airport while his family “was retained with armed police force.” (Photos posted by Roh’s wife on social media in October 2017 suggest she was visiting New York in late October.) He was then interrogated for “hours,” they write, by “a team of Special Counsel Robert Mueller investigating Russia-Gate.” The book alleges that he and his family were then “observed, followed, and taped, at every moment and every place in New York” by the FBI and that his family was assigned to “special rooms at the hotel” while security personnel “patrolled the corridors.”

It is unclear whether Roh was actually surveilled after being interviewed—a spokesman for the special counsel’s office declined to comment. The book further alleges that Mifsud is not a Russian spy but is actually “deeply embedded in the network of Western Intelligence Services.” Papadopoulos, too, is a “western intelligence operative,” the authors assert, who was “placed” in the Trump campaign by the FBI. In that sense, the book is similar to one written recently by another obscure player detained and questioned by Mueller’s team earlier this year: Ted Malloch, a controversial London-based academic with ties to Trump associates Roger Stone and Nigel Farage. In his book The Plot to Destroy Trump: How the Deep State Fabricated the Russia Dossier to Subvert the President, Malloch argues that the apparent covert intelligence activity connected to the Trump campaign was not Russian, but Western.

Roh and Pastor’s prevailing thesis is that Papadopoulos’s “mission” was to bring Trump into contact with Russian officials. “That’s nuts,” Papadopoulos’s wife Mangiante told me in response to the book’s theory. “From ‘coffee boy’ to spy … George has been upgraded!” she joked, referring to the Trump campaign’s claim that Papadopoulos, a young energy consultant who joined the Trump campaign in March 2016, was so low-level that he was basically a “coffee boy.”

Again, the Republicans on HPSCI who have reviewed the intelligence sure seem miffed that Trump didn’t get an opportunity to weed out the suspected assets in his campaign. But this, from a transparent Russian operative, is still what Republicans want to argue to discredit the Mueller investigation.

Consider what would have had to have happened to pull this off.

First, the Deep State would have started this process years ago, when Papadopoulos worked for the Hudson Institute, establishing his conservative bona fides. Then, they would have inexplicably had Papadopoulos work for Ben Carson, which in any normal year would experience no success in the primary and therefore in any normal year could expect none of his aides to be picked up by the winning candidate. Then, somehow Sam Clovis (who multiple witnesses have said welcomed outreach to Russia) would be convinced to recruit Papadopoulos. The FBI would have somehow had to have known that the campaign itself would do no vetting. And even if the FBI could assume the campaign would do no vetting, it would also have to ensure that the campaign wouldn’t distance itself from Papaodpoulos after the WaPo did an embarrassing profile describing how inexperienced Papadopoulos was.

And, of course, somehow this “coffee boy” would have the finesse to convince a lot of far more experienced operatives to accept outreach from Russia.

Further, in spite of its extensive and remarkably successful effort at placing a spy on Trump’s campaign, the FBI would then have to have chosen not just not to herald the fake Russian spy it had planted in the Trump campaign contemporaneously, but to refrain from joining the Russian attribution in October 2016 altogether, effectively utterly pissing away the value of having placed a spy in the Trump campaign.

In some versions, this conspiracy theory even says Papadopoulos was planted by Hillary’s people. Hillary’s campaign was all too willing to seed their crappy dossier publicly, and spent a great deal of messaging talking about both their own targeting by Russia and Trump’s openness to capitalize off that targeting, not to mention pouncing on thinly source reports suggesting a tie between Russian and Trump. And yet somehow, the guy the Hillary Deep State people planted on Trump’s campaign not only didn’t tell their paid MI6 spy to go find the evidence about Papadopoulos being offered willingly at drunken sessions in London, but didn’t just publicize the details in the first place.

In short, to believe this conspiracy, you’d have to believe all these whack assumptions (from an FBI that the same conspiracists argue is otherwise incompetent) and ignore that Republicans who have reviewed the intelligence find credible the claim that Russia was trying to recruit assets in Trump’s campaign.

And yet that’s where even relatively mainstream Republicans are headed next.

This is, very transparently, Russian planted disinformation. And yet the same Republicans who claim there is “no collusion” are regurgitating the disinformation like automatons.

41 replies
  1. Rapier says:

    Well sure but what difference does that make? Sadly it’s we with the water pistol, against a MOAB. I’ll be more than happy to be proven wrong.

  2. earlofhuntingdon says:

    Excellent and worthwhile synthesis.  Natasha Bertrand’s piece in the Atlantic would have benefited from it, starting with the high likelihood that Stephan Roh played a direct part in Russian disinformation efforts. 

    Roh would have been a legitimate target to interview and surveil during his time in the US, evidenced, ironically, by his protesting too much about it. More importantly, it is evidenced by his prior associations with Mifsud and others and his extensive Russian client base. It might be more accurate to say that he is a Russian client.

    The Russian interference campaign did not stop in 2016.

  3. bmaz says:

    I don’t know how Andy McCarthy obtained three exclamation points. He has been a disingenuous, if not worse, hack, at best, for as long as I remember on the internet. That is a while. Having once been in Rudy 911’s SDNY and through the horrors of the Bush response to the WTC attacks, is not a salve for being an complete ideological malefactor for two decades.

  4. William Bennett says:

    First, the Deep State would have started this process years ago, when Papadopoulos worked for the Hudson Institute, establishing his conservative bona fides.

    You’ll never get to the heart of the conspiracy with this hidebound “chronological” thinking! Time travel has already been established as a key tool in the Liberal Deep State armamentarium—or are you pretending not to know the critical role it played in the Obama birth certificate forgery? Trump had the evidence–and then it was gone! Just like the girl in that Zombies song. That was 1965! Clearly the plot to destroy Trump’s presidency goes back that far, maybe even earlier.

    • earlofhuntingdon says:

      Good snark, but not worth the effort.  It will be easier to follow that thread by reading the new issue when it comes out next month.  Care for it well;  given how readily comic books are lost, some of them are worth hundreds of dollars.

  5. lefty665 says:

    Seems like a pretty thin thread.  OTOH, long long ago in the anti-war movement we often found that the people advocating violence and confrontation the most loudly and incessantly turned out to be the paid FBI infiltrators. “I love what you’re about bro, but prove you’re really real by doing this profoundly wrong thing in support of the cause, or are you a wuss”.  That is the way they’ve operated more recently with the poor dumb bastards they’ve targeted in domestic terrorist scams too. The MO is consistent over decades.

    If Popadopoulas is a plant, there are almost certainly more. Since Popadopoulas migrated in from the Carson camp (an insurance policy for the insurance policy?), wonder who started native with the Trumpies? And, if Popadopoulas is a plant then odds are pretty high his wife is too. Her comments have been consistent with that.


  6. Rugger9 says:

    Meanwhile, at the palace…

    The Kaiser is looking over his shoulder as his usefulness wanes, noting that there are no significant legislative goals this year as announced last week from the GOP congress (take that with a grain of salt, or a boulder).  Pence was always the end game for the Dominionists after Caesar Disgustus took all of the heat for putting the agenda in place.

    Nevertheless, the grifting must continue.  Since the Scottish heralds are challenging the crest, it’s as legitimate as a Trump Steak.




  7. earlofhuntingdon says:

    Papadopoulos seems pretty straightforward.  Ambitious, hapless, marginally talented, unaware of his limitations, but probably sincere.  This administration is full of them.  Kashyap Patel and Carter Page are others, though, I would say, very different personalities.  (Page, of course, runs his own one-man consulting business, but somehow survives in an extraordinarily competitive industry.) On the patsy end of the spectrum compared to, say, Avenatti.  Useful, in part, because of what he doesn’t see, both for the Trumpistas and the Russians.

  8. Avattoir says:

    I don’t understand what work raising Avenatti’s name is intended to perform in your comment.

    • bmaz says:

      Nothing. But there is an intense right wing Trumpian effort underway to hit Avenatti because he is not….Trumpian. It is what it is, but let no one not recognize what is up here.

      • Avattoir says:

        Not arguing with you on your point at all, bmaz. But: “the spectrum”? That threw me; & I’m still thrown.

    • earlofhuntingdon says:

      One might construct a figurative spectrum from patsy to kingpin, from Don Knotts to Dick Cheney, or Papadopoulos to Blankfein.  Papa is not in the same league as Cheney for smarts, juice, or ruthlessness.  Cohen has more, but only just.  Like Papa, most of his resources are derivative: uncle this, father-in-law that, Trump.  Avenatti, on the other hand, has smarts, street smarts, independent wealth, and some legal and political network, largely in California.  He’s a player in his own right, how big is debatable, whereas Papa is not and Cohen probably not.

      • Avattoir says:

        That’s fine; maybe it’s just me, or b/c it’s Friday Monday. Sorry for having made too much of this.

      • Soldalinsky says:

        Please stop spewing this Avenatti garbage: he’s a dirty lying hack that has screwed over basically everyone he’s done business with in the last few years.  He’s embroiled in lawsuits and, in my opinion, will be disbarred very soon.  There is a meritous complaint pending seeking his disbarment here:

        Here’s some smoking guns from the Seattle Times (emphasis added):

        Since his investment firm bought bankrupt Tully’s Coffee for $9.15 million at auction five years ago, Avenatti’s company has been named in more than 50 state and federal legal complaints, including commercial lawsuits, breach of lease actions and warrants for unpaid taxes, court records show.

        Nold’s complaint contends that while Avenatti ran the company, he fleeced nearly $6 million in federal and state tax withholdings — money meant to be held in trust for payment of quarterly taxes — from the paychecks of Tully’s employees.

        The complaint also claims Avenatti fraudulently transferred $100,000 from the Tully’s operation last year to retain lawyers for his California law firm’s unrelated bankruptcy.

        Here’s another take on the huge problem that could very well get him thrown in prison: failing to remit withheld taxes.

        • bmaz says:

          Dear Soldalinsky, do NOT, for one second, EVER tell anybody here what to do or say. You are a fucking troll, and pretty much every “contribution” you have made here evidences just that fact.

          Also, don’t cite a crackpot like Robert Barnes. That crap does not cut it here.

          • greengiant says:

            My understanding is the Washington State Bar takes great glee in disbarring in and out of state lawyers who are not crooked. One disbarred lawyer took that as a great reference and won election as a judge. Maybe Avenatti can clean out another swamp hole with the hand he has tied behind his back.

        • SpaceLifeForm says:

          You are *way* the fuck off. Way off.

          Avenatti could out-argue you in a New York second.

          Just give it up, and find a meaningful job besides attacking people.

          • Soldalinsky says:

            I just presented averments of fact in a verified bar complaint that Avenatti committed tax fraud.  Please elaborate how this is  *way* the fuck off? Payroll tax payments were collected and held in trust by Avenatti or a fiduciary. FACT!  He defrauded the IRS by stealing money his company owed to them!! He is liable as a corporate officer and / or shareholder.

            Do you understand that retribution guarantees social order and upholds the social contract?

            Out-argue me?  How is that even relevant?  He hasn’t paid taxes he is obligated to pay! Am I supposed to look the other way? Are you not disturbed that MSM is parading this guy on TV and in print 24/7 and he’s completely dishonest?




            • bmaz says:

              First off, it is not “verified”, it is a common unsworn bar complaint. Secondly, bar complaints are a dime a dozen. The allegations mean nothing until upheld by a bar panel. Thirdly, bar complaints by non-client third parties are highly disfavored. Fourthly, it appears to center on facts in Washington, not California. Fifth, the California bar system very rarely takes disciplinary action on these kind of complaints, and they very likely will not on this one. Lastly you keep stating “FACT!” when all you have are allegations with no findings. You keep screaming about this like it means diddly squat as to Avenatti’s actions in relation to Daniels. It doesn’t.

              • bmaz says:

                Adding that the “bar complaint” was filed by a lawyer suing over Tully’s in Washington state. It would be stunning if the California bar jumped into that. You are VASTLY overstating the significance, if any, of this.

                • greengiant says:

                  Bmaz, hope this is a nothingburger fantasy usual dry run through EW. The downside is what I “heard” a few years ago, Washington state bar nailed an out of state attorney representing himself or relatives for practicing without a license. Their home state reciprocated and they were out of the bar at home. My guess is their plan is take out Avenatti in Washington and question is would California bar follow without recourse? Not revealing any secret game plane here as the crooks have done this in the past. The dust cloud disruption alone is worth it to them for their base.

                  • bmaz says:

                    Complicated questions. Not positive I would know the answer where I am at, but am certainly not any expert as to WA or CA. That said, have only seen a CA lodged complaint, with no compulsory answer that I have seen requested by the CA supreme court authority, or their bar sub set. WA does not seem to be in play, though i have gone very deep looking for it.

                    There are certainly often, if not presumed, reciprocal actions among the states I have no idea how will play out in any given state.

                    • greengiant says:

                      Thanks. For those who have not zoomed in on this area the Koch brothers, Alec, etc target state bars, judiciary, elected prosecutors, and secretaries of state who manage the electoral processes and voter lists. But hey, I am paranoid.

  9. Rusharuse says:

    I’m getting it, I’m getting it! The deep state then uses a secret CIA slush fund to pay tens of millions to RNC/NRA/ Trump campaign, reimburse Trump for his campaign donations, pay off Trump Uni settlement, Donate 50 mill to the inauguration, give Kushner Inc 200 mill “loan”, so, so, so . . all in such manner that I/we thunked it all came out of the Rosneft commission account. Master plan: Trump gets elected, then thrown out, then Hillary gets the gig by default. Wow! This is big!!!

    • bmaz says:

      Seriously, what kind of shit are you pitching? I guess your handle speaks for itself. GTFO troll.

      • says:

        @bmaz, Rusharuse: We live in times when weak sarcasm from one side and weak trolling from the other seem to be getting blurred.

          • says:

            Well, I tried to be witty in one of the (n-1) languages that are not my native one, and I failed. Sorry for that. What did I intend to say?

            I read Rusharuse’s post and it didn’t feel like a genuine troll post to me, I thought it was an attempt at parodying such, maybe a bit on the weak side. On the other hand, I see the amount of “real” trolls here and don’t envy you for the work of trying to keep this place readable. So I do understand that you’re irritated and your irony/sarcasm detector might have suffered, and I also feel that Rusharuse kind of brought that friendly fire on himself. So here we are, in my opinion three people none of which is a fan of the cheap horror show in the White House, and we waste our time fighting among ourselves. I don’t exclude myself from that:)

            Waking up every day, still seeing that orange thing in the news, being worried for a lot of people who are hurt or endangered by the reckless and amateurish behavior of that guy and his surroundings, wondering/hoping/counting the days until this nightmare will be gone. “the times that we live in” was intended as a shorthand for that. OK, I failed, again. Have a good time!

    • SpaceLifeForm says:

      Not bad. Except the ‘Hillary gets the gig’ part.

      *That* is *not* part of the Master Plan.

  10. Willis Warren says:

    AMcCarthy is getting more and more ridiculous everyday.  There’s a sense among Republicans that this is the end of the party if tRUmp gets caught.  They may be right, but Fox viewers are pretty stupid

    • Rusharuse says:

      Avenatti (hallowed be thy name) has thrown a big ol grenade into the FOX foxhole. By outing Cohen, joining him at hip to Trump and shining the spotlight on Hannity he has put Fox in an impossible position. Last nite on Fox Trump Schill Steve Hilton smashed Cohen for undermining the Presidents “drain the swamp” promise, that he should apologise and give back the money, of course the Prez knew nothing about any of this. How far can they go trying to distance Trump and themselves from Cohen when their major star Sean H is a friend of Cohen’s, one of only three clients and also a major confidante of Trump? When the grenade goes off what will Sean say in Cohen’s defence or in his own defence? What can he say? Fox viewers are going to need new levels of stupid to swallow whatever is coming.

  11. pseudonymous in nc says:

    McCarthy’s building up to a huffy piece arguing that the FBI has no mandate to investigate crimes or counterintelligence, and then he will vanish in a puff of illogic.

  12. Mitch Neher says:

    It can always get worse. I just read a transcript of Limbaugh’s radio program that claims that Mifsud was an FBI mole who entrapped Papadopoulos with the help of yet another FBI informant whose name Limbaugh says he knows but can’t reveal. Because that would eliminate the chance to change his story tomorrow or the next day, or whenever they all get their stories straight.

  13. JacobLadder says:

    Ha ha, yes, oh those silly right-wingers! Where do they get their ideas?

    I see Ms. Emptywheel you completely ignored our exchange the other day. Where I suggested the possibility that Papadopolous was in fact a dupe, not a plant. With a single function: blabbing the story about the Russians and Hillary’s emails to Downer who could then report it to the FBI, once the Wikileaks mails came out. Thus recycling the ‘intel’ fed to him at the direction of Halper.

    This way, there was no need for all the twists and turns needed to “pull this off.” No working for Carson, no Clovis involvement. Just one simple task: feed the dupe and get the young hotshot to boast of his “inside info,” not really a difficult job (especially after a couple bottles of Claret). And indeed, Papadopolous remains the coffee boy — in this case delivering more than just espressos and double lattes.

    Halper met with Downer in May of 2016, right around the time of the drinking session. If you think that was just to catch up on old times, I’ve got swampland to sell you. And again I’ll ask, if this is all so far-fetched, then why has Mifsud gone missing, his very identity scrubbed from the website of his university? Nobody still can answer.

  14. sonofnewo says:

    Marcy, you still haven’t answered a very simple question:

    In your opinion, why did Stefan Halper and Alexander Downer each arrange private meetings with lowly George Papadopoulos in summer 2016?

    • SpaceLifeForm says:

      There is no solid proof yet that Marcy is an oracle.

      There are many questions.

      Private summer, meet with two others

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