Michael Kowalczyk / Flickr trump tower window...
Michael Kowalczyk / Flickr

Intelligence expert Rolf Mowatt-Larseen on the now infamous Trump Tower meeting:

[E]verything we know about the meeting — from whom it involved to how it was set up to how it unfolded — is in line with what intelligence analysts would expect an overture in a Russian influence operation to look like. It bears all the hallmarks of a professionally planned, carefully orchestrated intelligence soft pitch designed to gauge receptivity, while leaving room for plausible deniability in case the approach is rejected. And the Trump campaign’s willingness to take the meeting — and, more important, its failure to report the episode to U.S. authorities — may have been exactly the green light Russia was looking for to launch a more aggressive phase of intervention in the U.S. election campaign. […]

From the Russian perspective, the fact that Trump Jr. agreed to the meeting would have been the first promising sign. That veteran political operative Paul Manafort and senior adviser Jared Kushner showed up with him would have furthered the impression that there was strong interest in Russian assistance (and vulnerability to compromise) on the part of the campaign. But, according to standard espionage tradecraft, the most notable achievement of this encounter lay in the campaign’s failure to report it to the appropriate U.S. authorities — as Russia would have known when there was no immediate, dramatic increase in U.S. counterintelligence scrutiny of its election-related operations.

As for why the initial emails so bluntly stated that the contact was part of a Russian government initiative—putting the most incendiary aspect of the meeting in plain text, from the beginning, he suspects it was “to avoid the possibility that [the] offer might be misconstrued, perhaps naively, as an innocent gesture of support and nothing more.” By making it explicit, the Putin government could be assured Trump would have “a full appreciation” for their role in an upcoming victory.

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This is a Creative Commons article. The original version of this article appeared here.


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