Friday Night Russiagate News Dump

James Risen at The Intercept has a strange story to tell. Apparently Matthew Rosenberg at the New York Times was working on the same story. The Intercept story dropped first, and the Times hurried to catch up. I love to imagine the second-to-drop story, where the editor screams into the phone to the reporter to get moving.


It’s a very complex story, and I don’t have an easy summary or analysis. I didn’t pay a lot of attention to the Intercept story when I read it because it had no details. Someone said they could sell the stuff stolen from the NSA via Shadow Brokers to someone else in the CIA or maybe the NSA because the CIA wasn’t interested. Oh, and would you like some dirty tapes of Donald Trump? (Say that last in a thick eastern European, or even German, accent.)

The Times has more details and I think a slightly different story, although I will have to read both articles a couple more times to be sure.

My net, at the moment, is that somebody is playing somebody else. What would it mean to “sell back” the stuff stolen from the NSA? Pinky swear that nobody’s got copies?

The big question is who’s playing whom. Is the seller providing disinformation in the hope it will make its way to Mueller’s investigation and undermine it?  Is this really the pee tape? A man who can’t quite be identified as Donald Trump talking to two women in a hotel room doesn’t measure up.

Both reporters seem to have talked to real people not from the White House, and the White House seems incapable of ginning up anything this complicated, so I think we can assume that somebody was trying to sell something.


Sorry I can’t supply anything but a thread to crowdsource our thoughts about this bizarre story. I comfort myself with the thought that in an alternative universe, President Hillary Clinton gave a speech at Bard College proposing Medicare for All as a possible model for the healthcare system. The students rioted because she failed to be appropriately intersectional in her choice of subject, and Paul Ryan pontificated about the destruction of the Republic by socialism.

Have at it. I’ll read the articles again and join in.

52 replies
  1. 1
    Baud says:

    Is this really the pee tape? 


  2. 2
    debbie says:

    I’d be suspicious.

  3. 3
    Corner Stone says:

    Brand leaving the DoJ to go to WalMart to, “protect her reputation” is fucking laughable.

  4. 4
    Baud says:

    @Corner Stone: To be fair, Walmart is a moral step up from the Trump administration.

  5. 5
    Davebo says:

    @Baud: Not to mention you can get a mansion in Bentonville for 200k.

  6. 6
    TenguPhule says:

    Both reporters seem to have talked to real people not from the White House, and the White House seems incapable of ginning up anything this complicated, so I think we can assume that somebody was trying to sell something.

    This does not preclude this from coming from someone else in the White House.

    Remember, Maddow got suckered by part of Trump’s old tax return form by someone.

  7. 7
    jl says:

    ” in an alternative universe, President Hillary Clinton gave a speech at Bard College proposing Medicare for All as a possible model for the healthcare system. The students rioted because she failed to be appropriately intersectional in her choice of subject, and Paul Ryan pontificated about the destruction of the Republic by socialism. ”

    Nah. It would be the pants suit. Something bad about the pants suit. Or she showed up in a dress when everyone expected a pants suite.

  8. 8
    rk says:

    Even if the pee pee tape comes out I think Trump supporters will say “fake tape” and that’ll be the end of it, especially if it’s not very clear. At this point I’m convinced Trump could rape a woman in times square and not lose any supporters.

  9. 9
    jl says:

    I’m moderation is pants suit a bad word now?

    Edit: I typo’d an ‘e’ on the end.

  10. 10
    clay says:

    Trump has denied the release of the Democratic response to the Nunes memo. Just like a guilty person would.

  11. 11
    Gin & Tonic says:

    I like Risen, but for a long piece, that article has an awful lot of “I don’t really know” in it.

  12. 12
    jl says:

    @clay: So much sketchiness from the WH, I think a waste of time trying to figure out why Brand decided to leave.

  13. 13
    clay says:

    @TenguPhule: I don’t know how ‘suckered’ she was when on that very show she said “There’s a very good chance that this was leaked by Donald Trump himself.”

  14. 14
  15. 15
    David 🎅🎄Merry Christmas🎄🎅 Koch says:

    this looks like yellow journalism.
    rim shot!

  16. 16
    Adam L Silverman says:

    @Baud: Again: there is no pee tape.

  17. 17
    Adam L Silverman says:

    @Corner Stone: Those rollbacks are very tempting. She probably stopped on her way home.

  18. 18
    Gin & Tonic says:

    @jl: No, but “socialism” is forbidden again, and it was in the block you quoted.

  19. 19
    Corner Stone says:

    @Adam L Silverman: Just shows she has no way to assess value.

  20. 20
    JPL says:

    @Baud: There’s no audio and the video is unclear, but there is a tape.

  21. 21
    JPL says:

    Would Walmart offer Rachel Brand a cushy job to protect Trump? I’m curious why the job offer was made now.

  22. 22
    Jim, Foolish Literalist says:

    I kind of took it all as somebody, or several somebodies, taunting and/or (more and) trying to run a scam on curious Americans, whether low-level spies or Cody Shearer types, with the active encouragement of the Russians. I wonder if somewhere in Moscow somebody is saying, “Bullshit, you did not get $100,00 from the CIA… No shit?… Well, I’ll be fucked… Well half of that is mine, you know….” Chaos, confusion, muddied waters.

    I’d never heard of Cody Shearer, doesn’t seem to be much on him, but he looks like a hanger-on via Sidney Blumenthal, the scary monster under Trey Gowdy’s bed

  23. 23
    Adam L Silverman says:

    I’ve read the NY Times article. My take away is that the US government personnel involved where trying to make the buy in order to get a handle, and proper accounting, of the cyber tools that were stolen from the NSA. Here is the relevant bit (emphasis mine):

    The cash, delivered in a suitcase to a Berlin hotel room in September, was intended as the first installment of a $1 million payout, according to American officials, the Russian and communications reviewed by The New York Times. The theft of the secret hacking tools had been devastating to the N.S.A., and the agency was struggling to get a full inventory of what was missing.

    Everything else was likely a combination of provitskaya and dezinformatsya – provocation and disinformation materials. Some of the information and materials were likely accurate, some likely altered, some likely made up out of whole cloth. The intention being to ratfuck the US counterintelligence folks.

  24. 24

    Okay, this is the meat of the Intercept article.

    According to documents obtained by The Intercept that summarize much of the channel’s history, a key American intermediary with the Russians was first approached by U.S. intelligence officials in late December 2016. The officials asked him to help them recover NSA documents believed to have been stolen by the Shadow Brokers.

    The American was able to identify a hacker in Germany who claimed to have access to some of the stolen data believed to be held by the Shadow Brokers, and who accurately provided advance notice of several Shadow Broker data releases. The hacker’s cooperation with the U.S. intelligence community broke down over his demands for full immunity from U.S. prosecution for his hacking activities — negotiations that failed largely because the hacker refused to provide his full personal identification to the Americans.

    Eventually, the relationship with the hacker in Germany led the Americans to begin talks with a Russian who became a key intermediary in the channel. The Russian is believed to have ties to officials in Russian intelligence.

    In March 2017, the Russian met with the American intermediary and a U.S. official in Berlin and agreed to provide the stolen NSA data from the Shadow Brokers in exchange for payment. The U.S. government used “certain messaging techniques” that the Russian accepted as proof that the U.S. government was behind the negotiations and the proposed deal, according to the documents obtained by The Intercept.

    But the channel broke down several times, often over disagreements between the U.S. and the Russians over how money would be exchanged and what data was to be received. In May 2017, U.S. officials were upset that the first tranche of data they received contained files already known to have been stolen because they had already been released by the Shadow Brokers. But the Russian intermediary continued to insist that he could provide data held by the Shadow Brokers, as well as materials related to Trump officials and Russian activity in the 2016 campaign. Throughout 2017, the U.S. officials sought to limit the scope of their investigation to data stolen by the Shadow Brokers, leaving aside the materials related to Trump. U.S. officials also began to wonder whether the Russian intermediary was part of a so-called dangle operation involving Russian disinformation.

    But by last fall, the Russian began passing information to the American intermediary that was unrelated to the Shadow Brokers, including the names of specific individuals and corporate entities allegedly tied to Russian interference in the 2016 U.S. election. The American intermediary turned the information over to U.S. intelligence for the purpose of determining the Russian’s credibility. U.S. intelligence officials continued to stress that they were only interested in recovering stolen U.S. data. Still, it was understood that if the Russian provided material related to Trump, the American intermediary would debrief U.S. officials on its content.

    In December 2017, the Russian turned over documents and files, some of them in Russian. The documents appeared to include FBI investigative reports, financial records, and other materials related to Trump officials and the 2016 campaign.

    “The information was vetted and ultimately determined that while a significant part of it was accurate and verifiable, other parts of the data were impossible to verify and could be controversial,” the documents obtained by The Intercept state. It is not clear who vetted the material.

    At a meeting last month in Spain, the Russian told the American intermediary of his desire to move forward with the delivery of the Shadow Brokers data, as well as material related to the 2016 election. The American questioned him on the credibility of his data and told him the data he was providing on Trump officials and election activities was “unsolicited.” The Russian also expressed interest in giving the material to media outlets, which the American told the Russian he found “disconcerting.”

    The Russian told the American that he had first become aware of Russian efforts targeting U.S. political activities in late 2014 or early 2015, according to the documents reviewed by The Intercept. The Russian stated that he had no knowledge of a “master plan” to cause major disruption to U.S. election activities, but the effort was generally understood as a “green light” from Russian security officials to enlist cyber-related groups in probing and harassing activities directed at U.S. targets.

  25. 25
    Jim, Foolish Literalist says:

    @JPL: they actually gave their employees some money to put lipstick on the tax cut pig

  26. 26
    Adam L Silverman says:

    @Corner Stone: I don’t shop there unless I’m stuck somewhere with no other choice.

  27. 27

    @Adam L Silverman: Yes, trying to get an accounting of what was stolen makes more sense than “buying it back.” Also trying to get a handle on who the Shadow Brokers are/were.

  28. 28

    There were meetings in provincial German towns where John de Carré set his early spy novels

    I like whomever planned this.

  29. 29

    The N.S.A. even used its official Twitter account nearly a dozen times to send coded messages to the Russian.

    Cue Twitter aficionados to start searching for those twelve.

  30. 30
    Adam L Silverman says:

    @Cheryl Rofer: Yep. The rest was active measures dangle material.

  31. 31

    There remains no evidence that such a video exists.

    Sorry, y’all.

  32. 32
    No Drought No More says:

    It’s past time for Las Vegas to make book on the time-and-date of the year when the first congressional democrat will denounce Trump as a willing stooge of Russia. I cannot understand anyone’s reticence at this point to arrive at just that conclusion, and proceed to goddamn him publicly for it.

    R.O.T. = RUSSIA OWNS TRUMP, and very likely a huge swathe of the republican party. It’s equally as obvious congressional republicans are, in turn, Trump’s willing dupes in covering up his treason because too many of them are up to their necks in criminal wrongdoing, too.

  33. 33

    At the same time, there were questions about the Russian’s reliability. He had a history of money laundering and a laughably thin legitimate cover business — a nearly bankrupt company that sold portable grills for streetside sausage salesmen, according to British incorporation papers.

  34. 34

    This is pretty responsible of the Times, for a change. They’re providing context for what seems to have been happening, although they also acknowledge that in a year we may find out all these guys were on the up-and-up.

    American intelligence agencies believe that Russia’s spy services see the deep political divisions in the United States as a fresh opportunity to inflame partisan tensions. Russian hackers are probing American voting databases ahead of the midterm election this year, they said, and using bot armies to promote partisan causes on social media. The Russians are also particularly eager to cast doubt on the federal and congressional investigations into the Russian meddling, American intelligence officials said.

    Part of that effort, the officials said, appears to be trying to spread information that hews closely to unsubstantiated reports about Mr. Trump’s dealings in Russia, including the purported video, whose existence Mr. Trump has repeatedly dismissed.

  35. 35
    Jim, Foolish Literalist says:

    @Cheryl Rofer: He had a history of money laundering and a laughably thin legitimate cover business

    Hey! that sounds familiar!

  36. 36

    The Times obtained four of the documents that the Russian in Germany tried to pass to American intelligence (The Times did not pay for the material). All are purported to be Russian intelligence reports, and each focuses on associates of Mr. Trump. Carter Page, the former campaign adviser who has been the focus of F.B.I. investigators, features in one; Robert and Rebekah Mercer, the billionaire Republican donors, in another.

    Yet all four appear to be drawn almost entirely from news reports, not secret intelligence. They all also contain stylistic and grammatical usages not typically seen in Russian intelligence reports, said Yuri Shvets, a former K.G.B. officer who spent years as a spy in Washington before defecting to the United States just before the end of the Cold War.

  37. 37
    Kayla Rudbek says:

    @Cheryl Rofer: CMOT Dibbler was involved in this?

  38. 38
    Adam L Silverman says:

    @Cheryl Rofer: @Cheryl Rofer: Provocation and disinformation active measures.

  39. 39

    Okay – here’s a little more detailed analysis of the two stories.

    Their overall shape is the same – the US intelligence community was working through intermediaries in Europe to try to track down the Shadow Brokers hack. Along the way, they were offered something that might be Trump kompromat. Being as suspicious as the acute crew at Balloon Juice, they figured it highly likely that the “kompromat” was intended to cause trouble and turned it down. Someone may have gotten away with what is probably a lot of money for them, but maybe a couple of months’ accounting for a professional at one of the agencies.

    The big difference between the two is that Risen attributes the turndown of the information to concern about annoying Trump, while Rosenberg attributes it to competent counterintelligence practice. I’ll go with the second, although I’ll bet there were conversations along the lines of “Wouldn’t you love to see the Trump tweets coming out of this?”

  40. 40

    @Adam L Silverman: Yep. And it’s good to see the Times implicitly labeling them as such.

  41. 41
    Adam L Silverman says:

    @Cheryl Rofer: Apparently some people at the Grey Lady are learning.

  42. 42
    David 🎅🎄Merry Christmas🎄🎅 Koch says:

    @JPL: GREAT point.

    Judging from her wiki page, she’s only worked 4 to 6 years as a DC lawyer. The rest as national security functionary at DOJ. And now, with such limited private experience, with such narrow field of practice, she lands a job with the biggest retailer in the country.

    Not sure if it adds up.

  43. 43
    Corner Stone says:

    @David 🎅🎄Merry Christmas🎄🎅 Koch:

    Not sure if it adds up.

    Depends on who’s buying and what they are trying to buy.

  44. 44
    Doug R says:

    If it’s coming out at the Intercept, it’s because Russia wants it out there.

  45. 45
    Anne Laurie says:

    @JPL: I think it’s more like…

    Take a high-paying Fortune-50-company position, where she can rake in a mint, and slide laterally to an equally cushy job after a year or so if necessary? Or stay and be “Deputy #2” in Jeff Session’s revanchist army, as the forces of justice & karma are marshalling?

    Remember, any woman who rises that high has to be pretty good at 11-dimensional chess…

  46. 46
    Ken says:

    @Cheryl Rofer:

    Being as suspicious as the acute crew at Balloon Juice

    Thank you. I think. “Suspicious” is one of those adjectives that cuts both ways.

  47. 47
    Corner Stone says:

    Personally, I have no interest in venerating Rachel Brand. She’s a true wingnut through and through. Good riddance.

  48. 48
    Anne Laurie says:

    @Kayla Rudbek:

    CMOT Dibbler was involved in this?

    I’ve long suspected Trump is the black sheep other Dibbler family members prefer not to talk about. It’s not his venality, but what self-respecting Cut-Me-Own-Throat vendor would want to be identified with a four-time bankrupt and blowhard like Lord Smallgloves?

  49. 49
    Ruckus says:


    Walmart is a moral step up from the Trump administration.

    One mouse step, maybe, but no more.

  50. 50
    Amaranthine RBG says:

    @David 🎅🎄Merry Christmas🎄🎅 Koch:
    Meh … it’s a political position with a legal title

  51. 51
    low-tech cyclist says:

    James Risen at The Intercept has a strange story to tell. Apparently Matthew Rosenberg at the New York Times was working on the same story. The Intercept story dropped first, and the Times hurried to catch up.

    Hey wait, Cheryl! Don’t’cha know that if it’s The Intercept, it’s a pile of slanted crap dressed up as reporting?

    At least, that’s what a good chunk of the commenters here keep telling me – telling me to disregard what sure looks like thorough and detailed reporting just because it’s from Glenn Greenwald’s shop. So get with the program!

  52. 52
    North_O_49 says:

    @Adam L Silverman: Maybe not, Risen noted Fusion GPS/Steele were hired by Republs first with the Dems taking it over.Rosenberg only mentioned the Dems paying for it.

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